Canadians enjoy greater freedom when it comes to the regulation of online casinos. The gambling culture in Canada is a lot more relaxed than it is in the United States. Canadian players tend to enjoy a wide range of online games, notably provincial lottery games. For the fiscal year 2017/2018, the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Authority generated a net profit of $2.49 billion, despite a decline in lottery ticket sales.
Online casinos are playing an increasingly important part in the gaming industry, with land-based casinos losing market share to high-profile iGaming operators. Canadians are spoilt for choice when it comes to online gaming activity. Players are buoyed by the advances in technology, notably the integrity of accounts and online gaming operations. The shift towards online gaming is part of a much broader trend. Statistics indicate that the value of the worldwide gambling industry may hit $180 billion within the next two years, driven in large part by the ever-expanding entertainment industry.
The Canadian online gaming industry generates an estimated $31 billion in gross revenue per year, with $14 billion per year in purchased services. This information provided courtesy of HLT Advisory was part of a much broader national study conducted in tandem with the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA). The popularization of online gaming has been fuelled in large part by the mass adoption of mobile gaming technology, particularly iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. High-speed, secure Internet services with 4G, and 5G development are fast-tracking the online gaming industry across Canada and North America.
Players across Maple country can easily tap into the wealth of online casino games – slots, card games, table games, and live dealer games – available at reputable online casinos operating in Canadian cyberspace. It is worth pointing out the Canadian government leaves it up to individual provinces to determine the legality of online gaming services. A similar trend is taking place in the United States, with the federal government allowing individual states to determine for themselves whether they wish to regulate online gambling.
Several Canadian provinces have adopted a no-go approach to online gambling, while others have embraced it. The liberalization of online gaming across Canada is slowly gaining momentum. Provincial legislators recognize the importance of deriving revenue streams from regulated online gaming activity, as opposed to black-market operations which cannot be taxed. A robust focus on crafting comprehensive legislation to facilitate online gaming frameworks is now the order of the day. Québec led the charge with respect to the iGaming sector.
This provided the momentum for other Canadian provinces to follow suit. While change typically requires time, other Canadian provinces like Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, et al are increasingly more relaxed in their stance towards online gaming. There is less resistance to operators wanting to set up shop in Canada and run legal online gaming services. Nowadays, most everybody understands (regulators, business owners, and government bodies) that people have switched from land-based gambling to online gambling, in much the same way as they switch from traditional in-store retail shopping towards e-commerce operations.
The shift from a land-based casino to an online casino is a no-brainer for Canadian players. It is far more cost-effective, convenient, and comfortable to simply power up a PC, Mac, Android, or iOS device and play real-money casino games than it is to frequent a land-based casino. Therein lies the limitation of bricks and mortar establishments: they are expensive to set up and maintain, and they are limited in terms of how many people they can attract.
The US model in regulated states allows land-based casinos to set up online casinos, in partnership with software providers. The shift to online gaming is an inexorable development, and part of a much greater global trend. The technology is such that players can barely tell the difference between a live dealer casino and an in-person casino experience. Nowadays, the technological advancements, security protocols, and feature-rich platforms provided to players are unassailable.
Rapid and Unprecedented Growth across Canadian Provinces
We are seeing augmented gaming unfolding at a rate of knots, with real money gambling applications available to legal-age players across the country. The world is on the cusp of dramatic and unprecedented developments in the online gaming arena. The engaging aspects of these casino games are evident for all to see, thanks to powerful software providers like NetEnt, Playtech, Microgaming, Dragonfish, and ilk. According to statistics, there are some 100+ casinos operational across Canada.
These are managed by a conglomerate of Native American tribal operators, government agencies, and private owners. These encompass sports betting operations, casino, horseracing, bingo, and lottery. Presently, there are no casinos in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, or Labrador. Toronto and the province of Ontario is home to many fine casinos, notably The Stars Group. This province also makes up 43% of all gambling revenues generated in Canada, and it accounts for the lion’s share of growth in the country. Ontario features an online lottery, multiple casinos, and province-managed online sports books.
Other notable Canadian provinces include Québec and British Columbia. Québec ranks at #2, just behind Ontario, and enjoyed strong growth in online gaming and lottery sales in 2017 of 5%, although casino gaming overall grew by a paltry 2% in the same year. The rapid growth of online gaming is testament to a burgeoning player base which is demanding such services. British Columbia too is enjoying surging levels of popularity in the online gaming sector. Although it has a much smaller population relative to Québec, it features a more robust market. While Canada’s market is certainly a sliver of what the US market is, the countries cannot be compared in terms of market size. Canada’s population is a fraction of the US population, yet there are many important parallels, and lessons to be learned between these neighbors.
Gambling Laws in Canada
Betting games came to Canada many years ago. Playing cards were introduced around 1497 when John Cabot frequented the Canadian shores. Games like blackjack, and poker were inspired by centuries-old games like faro. While government certainly wanted to limit gambling activity, there was no desire to ban all gaming outright.
In the 1970s, the Canadian government decided to leave all gambling regulation up to individual provinces. This has given rise to a robust, and developed casino sector across Canada. The first casino in Canada was built in Winnipeg in 1989, followed by scores of others in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Québec, et al. VLTs (video lottery terminals) enjoyed surging levels of popularity in 1990s, and beyond. Horse race betting, and live casinos complemented the wide selection of games at Canadian casinos. Since the government is a lot more relaxed about online gambling in Canada (as of 2019 it is considered a victimless crime), it is not actively policed and players are not harassed.
Responsible gaming conduct is expected and promoted across Canada. Multiple polls already suggest that Canadians are receptive to online gambling, and have no problem playing the lottery, enjoying slots, or betting on card games every now and then. Canadian players are allowed to play at foreign-based online gaming sites, and they do so with increasing alacrity. Whether it’s slots, card games, video poker, live dealer games, keno, roulette, or sports betting – Canadians enjoy betting.
The security of online casinos in Canada is always a high-profile topic. Fortunately, each Canadian province has the authority to determine the level of security protocols necessary to provide a safe gaming framework. Canadians are encouraged, but not coerced, to play at only Canadian-regulated online casinos since these must comply with the safeguards put in place. Various third-party services like eCOGRA Safe & Fair, and others are extremely important when it comes to assessing the credibility, safety, and security of online casinos.
The tribal casino industry is particularly lucrative, with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC) being responsible for the licensing and regulation of many online casinos in Canada. Other government agencies are also involved, notably the CGA (Canadian Gaming Association) which are powerful organizations supporting players’ rights in the case of wrongful, negligent, or improper conduct by online casino operators.
Notable Developments in the Canadian iGaming Sector
The province of Ontario is moving to speed up the privatization of online gambling. With some 15 million residents living in the province, there is huge demand for online gaming services. Ontario’s authority is the OLG (Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation), and it is in the midst of establishing higher levels of competition for legal gambling activity. This will bring many privately-licensed operators to market in Ontario, which will likely be adopted in other Canadian provinces like Québec.
If things move according to plan, various apps will be launched for many online gaming operators in the province. The current state of Canadian legislation vis-a-vis gambling is such that anyone can visit an online casino and gamble, without prejudice. The digitization of the gaming industry taking place at a rapid pace, as evidenced by the growth of online gaming in countries across Europe such as Spain, Belgium, and Italy.
The rapid growth of online gaming is ably assisted by the innovation taking place at casino sites. Deposits and withdrawals are available quicker than ever before, and games load up instantly and play direct off the browser – no download needed. The most popular Canadian payment processing options include Visa, MasterCard, Interac, and cryptocurrency. Gaming platforms support many of these payment methods, thereby facilitating a more user-friendly experience. Provided online casinos do not unlawfully advertise in areas where online gambling is illegal, it’s all systems go. The CGA released the National Economic Benefits of the Canadian Gaming Industry Report in 2019. The study indicates that legalized gaming generated revenues of $16.1 billion (gaming revenue) and $1 billion in non-gaming revenue, for a combined total of $17.1 billion. The industry generates $9.2 billion annually, and provides employment to 182,500 full-time workers.
All trends indicate growth in the Canadian gaming industry, which includes online gaming activity. Ontario leads the way when it comes to economic benefits, with British Columbia in second, Québec in third place, and Alberta fourth in line. Viewed holistically, the Canadian online gaming industry is growing at a steady clip, although the absolute numbers are significantly less than its southern neighbor.