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How Canada compares to other countries on legal sports betting

When it comes to online sports betting laws, Canada has essentially been a free and unfettered market as Canadians could play at almost any major international sports betting site that existed ‘offshore’.  The Canadian and Provincial governments did not look to stop Canadians from playing online with sites based abroad.  This is quite different than many markets around the World.

In the United States, prior to 2018, the government prevented card companies from being able to process transactions with online gambling providers that were unlicensed and usually based in Central America.  

In France, sports betting is taxed at very high levels and very few providers wish to serve the market as a result.  French sports betting fans have thus had their choice limited to an extremely small number of providers that all pay significant licensing and taxes.

In Australia, the population has been exposed to nearly ubiquitous video poker machines.  These machines have been attributed with widespread gambling addiction.  As a result, the Australian government developed a licensing program for all providers that wanted to serve Australians.  In doing so, all providers needed to create special Australian-facing websites that stripped out all but sports betting services, meaning no poker, casino or bingo games.  Although the government controls the regulation of the video poker machines that created the problem of gambling addiction, they moved to alter online gambling rather than reduce or eliminate the poker machines.  This is of course because the government earns so much money through the machines.

In Italy, Denmark and Spain, online sportsbooks are also taxed and licensed so that there are only a few officially available providers available for use within each country.

This brings us back to Canada: The unrestricted market is now changing as the old law that made single event betting illegal has been struck down with the passing of Bill C-218.  With this, the provinces are now free to govern gaming and sports betting in the way that they see fit.  In early 2022, Canada’s most populous province will be the first to open a proper market, with an unlimited number of licensed & legal Ontario sports betting sites. Many of the providers that gain a license will be sportsbooks that served Ontario previously from their ‘offshore’ jurisdiction. Other providers, mainly from the USA will move north to enter the Ontario market for the first time.

With so many providers being able to turn their customers from ‘grey market’ to legal market customers, essentially with the flip of a switch, Ontario and other provinces will know just how much money is being bet by Ontario residents.  This will in turn put pressure on other Canadian provinces to develop their own legal sports betting markets, or perhaps simply join the Ontario legal sportsbook market though some manner of agreement.

Canadian Sports Betting Laws

There has been a lot of hype surrounding the legality of online sports betting around the world, especially with regard to our neighbours to the south in the United States where online betting has essentially been banned.  As a result, in the US, all major reputable online sportsbook companies refuse to register and serve US players for fear of reprisal from the US government.  This kind of hype often makes Canadians question the situation in Canada, especially if they are starting to consider online betting for the first time.

The good news for Canadians is that there are no laws whatsoever that preclude you from opening online sportsbook accounts or funding those accounts as long as you are the age of majority in your province.  In fact, Canada is home to one of the world’s largest online gaming governance bodies; the Kahnawake Gaming Commission located on the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory south of Montreal.  Every online sportsbook is registered with such a governing body, and these bodies existing as tax havens around the world.  Some of the largest ones exist in the UK, the Isle of Man (off the coast of Britain), the UK territory of Gibraltar, Malta, Curacao, Panama & Costa Rica.  Canadians may play with many online sportsbook services in these locations.  In other words, the operators in these jurisdictions are indeed legal betting sites for Canada, because they provide their service offshore. These regulatory bodies ensure that there is some transparency in the service that they provide.  If you would like to maintain a purely Canadian betting experience, Sports Interaction is the only one that can be counted as fully Canadian, as they operate from Kahnawake.

Canadian Broadcast Laws and Online Betting

The laws that do exist in Canada with regard to online sports betting providers only pertain to the way they may advertise through the media on television or radio.  You may have actually noticed this for yourself.  No gambling website may advertise themselves to Canadians on these public platforms.  What you may however have seen is a free, non-gambling website in the same name as a gambling website, but they use a ‘.net’ domain as opposed to the main ‘.com’ or ‘.ca’  domain.  This applies to companies that offer online sports betting, casino or poker play.    

Like it or not, this is the way that these online gambling companies can work around the existing Canadian broadcast laws to ensure their brand may become established among the public.  I’m not here to judge the companies that you see in those commercials.  However, I will warn you about some of these companies.  Although the service they advertise is free, their alternate real-money sites often do not offer Canadian Dollar sports betting accounts.  

This is one of the most important aspects of your impending experience.  If a sports betting service forces you to bet in another currency, you are going to be paying money in currency exchange fees as you fund that betting account from your CAD funding source, and then again when you exchange back and withdraw any potential winnings to your bank account or other funding source.  This is a great reason that you’re here as all the sites recommended offer CAD accounts so you never need to exchange your funds.

Legal Sports Betting Canada

The best fully legal online sports betting sites for players in Canada