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Changing Times for Online Gambling and Sports Betting in Canada

Canada has long been a country with strict anti-gambling laws, with the ancient 1892 Gambling Law still in power.

While some casinos exist in areas like Ontario, most sports betting continues to run through illegal channels and a black market. For decades, players from Toronto and Vancouver have travelled south across the US border to Nevada to gamble in Vegas, with 2018 seeing 1.6 million Canadians visit the state.

The old Canadian gambling law dictates that all forms of gambling are essentially illegal in the country, although over time this law has been relaxed to allow for certain activities. During the mid-1900s, games like bingo and raffles were allowed and eventually betting on horse races became acceptable. Nowadays, the individual provinces of Canada have certain powers to regulate gambling in their own jurisdictions but overall, sections 201 to 206 of the federal Criminal Code make all types of gambling illegal.

Online Gambling

The rise of online gambling and casinos has presented new challenges for Canadian regulators. Technically, offering online gambling services to Canadians remains illegal but it is near impossible for the authorities to govern overseas operators. In some areas like the Kahnawake territory near Montreal, Quebec, licensing and regulating of land-based and online casinos is legal and monitored by a local commission.

In the rest of Canada, operating remote casinos from within Canada remains illegal but there are many popular external websites where you will find some Canadian players most trusted online casinos. While these sites are licensed offshore, they are usually done so in well-regulated countries, offering players a safe way to gamble online.

Sports Betting in Canada

In the recent federal elections last year, the call for single-event sports betting to be legalized was a hot topic that gained some traction. Many pointed out the loss of jobs that gambling restrictions result in and the flow of money into the black market due to underground operators. In 2018, the US lifted a ban on sports betting, resulting in some bordering states like Michigan and New York to begin legalizing certain activities.

Now, Jim Lawson, the CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group, is making fresh calls for a change in the law. In particular, he hopes to see betting on horse races legalized and regulated.

"In Ontario alone, there've been many studies that show horse racing represents 30,000 to 40,000 jobs and you can spread that across the country," he said in a recent interview with local news outlet CTVNews. He went on to note the potential for the companies non-profit mandate to direct proceeds back into local beneficiaries like youth sports and medicine.

New Democratic Party MP Brian Masse feels the same way, criticizing the Canadian government for shying away from the issue while the US forges ahead with more modern laws. Speaking to CBC, Masse, who first introduced a bill to legalize sports betting, says Canada is now in a lose-lose position.

"We would have been ahead of the curve if we had actually defined our own destiny, but instead U.S. courts, as expected, moved ahead and left us behind. The consequences for Canada are very high," he claims.

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