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If you’re a Canadian gambler looking to play safely and legally online, you’re in the right place. Whether you’re looking for an online poker room, a casino or a sportsbook, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to get started.
What options you have will depend on your province. If you’re in Ontario, you can choose from the likes of BetMGM, DraftKings and even a WSOP/GGPoker partnership. Elsewhere, you’ll be playing on sites offered by your provincial lottery. Fortunately, many provincial lottery sites now offer full sportsbooks and casinos. PlayNow (BC/MB) and Espace Jeux (QC) even have online poker.
Read on to learn more about these options, what the products are like, why you should choose a regulated product and, of course, how to sign up, deposit and get in the game.
Legal and regulated online gambling is available in Canada, mostly through government sites. The exception is Ontario, where private sector options joined the marketplace on April 4, 2022.
On that day, 13 operators went live in Ontario. The Proline app from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) was already legal there. Also, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is permitting another 13 operators to launch, bringing the total so far to 27.
On Apr. 5, AGCO approved BuddyBet and on Apr. 13, NorthStar, bringing the total number of operators to 29.
There hasn’t been much discussion of online poker in Canada. However, there’s been a lot of talk about sports betting and online casinos. As we’ve seen in the US iGaming market, poker often follows along with those other products. Here’s what’s been going on in recent months.
Yes, online gambling is legal in Canada, but the situation is a bit complicated.
Under federal law, only provincial governments and their crown corporations can conduct gambling operations in Canada. However, that law predates the internet. There’s therefore a gray area when it comes to offshore gambling. That’s true everywhere in Canada but Ontario, where a regulated iGaming marketplace includes private online gambling operators.
However, all Canadians have access to some fully legal online gambling options through their provincial lotteries. Exactly what those options are depends on which province you’re in. What’s more is Ontario augmented its OLG-only online gambling province on Apr. 4, 2022, and created Canada’s first regulated private market for online gambling. Other provinces may eventually follow suit.
In the meantime, there are many private companies offering online gambling to Canadians in a gray market capacity. Although these sites aren’t officially legal, they aren’t clearly illegal, either. They’re still risky to use and we don’t recommend it, but you won’t get in legal trouble for doing so.
The main online gambling sites in Canada are those run by the provincial lotteries and their subsidiaries.
Canadians also have access to a number of offshore gambling sites, some more trustworthy than others. However, as a matter of principle, Online Poker Report does not promote any unregulated operators and discourages you from using any offshore sites. What you’ll find below are your current and future legal and regulated options.
In this section, we’ll tell you what options are available in your province, and what the future prospects are. More detail on the design of the sites themselves follows below.
Ontario online casinos, poker and sportsbooks launched on Apr. 4, 2022. The launch included 13 new operators, in addition to the existing OLG option, Proline.
Before then, your only regulated option was OLG.ca, the provincial lottery site. That product features single game sports betting, as well as a full suite of online casino games and slots. Of course, you can also play instant lottery games and buy draw tickets. Unfortunately, it lacks an online poker option.
The new market will be based around iGaming Ontario, a government agency created to conduct and manage online gambling in the province, as required by federal law. Private online gambling companies will sign operating agreements with iGaming Ontario, to offer games on its behalf.
Some of the big names in Ontario online gambling include:
DraftKings is expected to join the market soon, too. However, the operator hasn’t yet received AGCO approval and wasn’t part of Launch Day.
Alberta has its own government-run online gaming site, PlayAlberta. This includes both online casino games and single game sports betting, but no online poker. On the other hand, it shares its lottery with the other Prairie Provinces, in the form of the Western Canada Lottery Corporation.
After Ontario, Alberta looks like it will be the next province to privatize its online gambling market. It has already started soliciting proposals for privatized sports betting, which will start off in the form of retail sportsbooks, but with the plan of extending into mobile betting. There’s been no mention of privatizing online casinos yet, but if privatized sports betting works well, it seems like a good bet that the government will consider doing the same with iGaming.
British Columbia is home to one of the better government-operated online gambling sites, PlayNow. This is a full-featured site which includes online casino, sports betting and poker. PlayNow has been successful enough that the Manitoba government struck a deal to piggyback on British Columbia’s efforts. PlayNow Poker is operates on a network with Quebec’s OK Poker, so there are actually players from three provinces playing together at the same tables: BC, MB and QC.
BC hasn’t yet indicated whether it intends to seek privatization or not. On the one hand, it has been an early adopter of new forms of gambling and, like Ontario, has a lucrative retail casino industry which involves a private sector partnership with Great Canadian Gaming. On the other hand, it has invested enough in developing PlayNow that it may wish to keep its monopoly rather than welcome in private sector competition.
Saskatchewan lacks any online gambling options at the moment. However, its government has struck a deal with the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority to create a site operated by First Nations. The new site hasn’t been named yet, but will offer both sports betting and online casino, and will be the first of its kind in Canada. It is expected to go live some time in 2022.
Although Manitoba partners with the other Prairie provinces for its lottery, it has teamed up with BC for online gambling. Manitobans therefore have access to all of PlayNow’s products: casino, sports betting and poker.
Unlike BC, Manitoba probably doesn’t have much interest in protecting PlayNow’s monopoly. It may, therefore, consider following either Alberta’s lead in privatizing online gambling, or perhaps Saskatchewan’s in partnering with the First Nations.
Quebec is another province that has made significant investments in building out its own online gambling presence. Espace Jeux is the iGaming and sports betting portal for Loto-Québec, the provincial lottery. It is similar to PlayNow in that is full featured, including online casino, sports betting and poker. The poker product, called OK Poker, is networked with PlayNow, so players from Quebec can compete against those in BC and Manitoba.
Quebec seems unlikely to privatize online gambling. Compared to other provinces, it leans quite heavily toward keeping things in the public sector, resists following the lead of other provinces, and dislikes American influence. It has also done more to try to prevent its citizens from playing on offshore sites than other provinces. Those efforts have been thwarted by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but they show that the province is interested in protecting Loto-Québec’s monopoly.
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland & Labrador all share a single lottery, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC). Its website, ALC.ca, also doubles as its iGaming portal.
Exactly which options are available through ALC.ca depend on which province you’re in. At the moment, only New Brunswick has approved online casino games, though other provinces are considering it. On the other hand, all the Atlantic provinces now have access to single-game sports betting. Nova Scotia was the last holdout, but joined the other three provinces in allowing it in February 2022.
Given the slow pace at which the Atlantic region is adopting even government-operated online gambling, privatization seems a long way off.
Ontario’s regulated online casino market gives online gamblers in that province access to name brand casinos, like BetMGM and Caesars, plus some homegrown brands like TheScore and Rivalry. The full list is on our Ontario Online Casinos page.
In the meantime, for the provinces where regulated online casino gaming is available at all, it’s just the one site per province (or in PlayNow’s case, one site for two provinces).
Here’s a rundown of how those various sites – current and future – stack up against each other:
DraftKings is a huge name in daily fantasy sports, but now it’s much more than just that. In US regulated markets, it’s a huge name in sports betting, and rapidly establishing itself as a great casino site, too.
It’s a highly appealing brand for players for two reasons. Firstly, it has been very generous with promotions in the US. Ontario rules prevent the advertising of bonuses, however, which may mean a change in strategy north of the border.
Fortunately, it’s also known for innovation. It produces a lot of its casino games in house, including numerous sports-themed blackjack and roulette titles. The sportsbook also has some unique features, like an NFT marketplace.
FanDuel is another daily fantasy sports company that has taken the plunge into mobile sports betting and online casino. Its rivalry with DraftKings will surely extend north of the border once that app is approved. However, FanDuel has a head-start, as it launched on Day One of the expanded iGaming marketplace.
Though similarly positioned as a sports-first brand, it brings a different set of perks to the table from DraftKings. For starters, it’s known for having some of the best software in the business, particularly for its sportsbook. If you’re looking for a streamlined experience, FanDuel’s a great choice.
BetMGM is the online gambling brand for MGM Resorts International, a huge name in retail casinos and luxury entertainment. The site is powered by Entain, and equally prominent name in online gambling.
With that sort of team-up, it’s no wonder that BetMGM is the US market leader in online casino gaming. It has great software, a huge range of games to choose from, and its MGM Rewards loyalty program, which can earn you stays at your choice of MGM Resorts properties. Its sportsbook is competitive with the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel, too.
Unibet is a European online casino and sports betting brand, now trying to make a name for itself in North America. It has nice software and a good selection of games, but what really makes it special is the company’s commitment to responsible gambling. Among other things, this means that you’ll find promotions at Unibet that won’t break the bank or require you to log in every day. It’s perfect for the casual gambler.
Caesars is a big name in retail casinos, and a driving force behind gambling expansion in Canada, thanks to its property in Windsor, ON. It’s been building up its online casino brand, as well; and its sportsbook now runs on software from the noted British bookmaker William Hill. It’s another company that’s spending big on promotions in the US, though its approach in Canada remains to be seen.
At the moment, BCLC’s PlayNow is the poster child for Canadian online casinos. Its game offerings rival those of US commercial operations, with several hundred slots, a decent selection of table games, live dealer products, bingo, video poker, free spins, progressive jackpots and more. It even has its own online poker room.
Its GameSense responsible gambling system has also proven quite successful. So much so that it has begun licensing it to other operators, including both private companies, like BetMGM, and other lottery operations, such as PlayAlberta.
Before private operators joined Ontario’s marketplace, Quebec’s iGaming site had the best selection of games in the country, especially when it came to table games. It has dozens of these, including some unusual games not found at the other Canadian online casinos. It even has a custom blackjack title, Blackjack Casinos de Québec, using the same rule set and table design used at the province’s retail casinos. Finally, it has a huge set of live dealer games to choose from, including “game show” style products and dice games, where other lottery sites focus on blackjack, roulette and baccarat.
It’s not without its downside, however. You won’t find a permanent welcome bonus here, but will either have to do without or wait until a limited time offer comes up. The site navigation and game search tools aren’t as polished as PlayNow’s.
Quebec was an early adopter of legal online poker, launching a poker product on its Espace Jeux website in 2010. It rebooted this in 2020 with a new product, OK Poker, using IGT technology.
PlayNow launched the year after Loto-Québec’s original poker product, in 2011. It didn’t rebrand in 2020, but has been brought up to date with the same features as OK Poker, as its technology is likewise supplied by IGT.
These are more modern sites than you might expect from a lottery. Aside from Texas Hold’em, you’ll find a decent array of games:
* Soko, aka Canadian Stud, is a rarely seen 5-Card Stud variant with special hand rankings
As far as tournaments go, the biggest is the bimonthly Mega $150,000 Guaranteed, which has a $320 buy-in and numerous satellites starting as low as $0.01. There is also a weekly $20,000 guaranteed tournament on Sundays, starting at noon for players in BC, which equates to 2 p.m. in MB and 3 p.m. in QC.
Despite not having a separate iGaming site, Ontario’s lottery offers a very robust online casino. There are hundreds of games to choose from, neatly categorized and with search tools to help you find the ones you’re looking for. It also has its own suite of responsible gambling tools, called PlaySmart, which includes a separate website dedicated to explaining the games and their odds.
PlayAlberta is a bare bones sort of site, without much to navigate. Visit the website, and the games are right there. The casino category contains only a couple dozen games, most of them slots. It uses the same GameSense responsible gambling system as BCLC.
Despite the minimal overall offerings, PlayAlberta did recently begin offering live dealer games, something that not all Canadian online casinos have.
ALC’s online casino is still in its infancy. It only began serving New Brunswick residents in 2020, and hasn’t rolled out for the other Atlantic provinces yet. As such, there are only a handful of games available, no promotions to speak of, no live dealer games.
The company’s PlayWise responsible gambling program also contains very little that’s specific to casinos games, beyond a few PDF brochures covering the odds for slots, blackjack and so forth. Nor are there any tools available to help, beyond the option to self-exclude.
Saskatchewan will soon get an online casino and sports betting site through a partnership between the province’s Liquor and Gaming Authority and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN). There’s no word yet on what the site will be called, which is why we refer to is as FSIN Online Casino for the time being. The expected go-live date for the new site is sometime in 2022.
Until Aug. 27, 2021, betting on the outcome of individual sports matches in Canada was illegal under federal law. Many Canadians still placed such bets at offshore sites, which were considered a gray market – that is, they were “not illegal” simply by virtue of not being addressed in the Criminal Code one way or another.
That situation persists today, but most Canadian provinces now also have a fully legal, white market option.
Elsewhere in the world, it has generally been the case that retail sportsbooks have preceded online betting. Not so in Canada. All the lotteries were already offering online parlay betting, and their technology suppliers had the capacity to provide single-game bets at any time.
As a result, many provinces were able to go live with online betting as soon as Bill C-218 came into effect. Most of the others followed not long after. At the moment, only Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and the Territories are without, and Saskatchewan says it will have single game online sports betting just as soon as its FSIN online gambling site goes live next year.
The new, single game Canadian online sportsbooks use the same branding as the older parlay-based product. That’s Mise-o-Jeu in Quebec, Sport Select in the Prairies, and Pro-Line everywhere else.
On Apr. 4, 2022, several private operators launched online sportsbooks in Ontario’s expanded online gambling space.
In April 2022, 888poker and BetMGM Poker launched standalone online poker apps. WSOP.CA is AGCO approved and on its way. Poker also tends to be a table game in the online casino brands now live in the province.
In the meantime, international online poker operators like PokerStars still serve Canadian customers, but in a gray market capacity. Now that Ontario’s launched its privatized iGaming market, however, unauthorized operators may have to leave the market. Some may apply for operating agreements at that time and begin serving Ontario customers in a formally regulated capacity. Others may simply stop taking Canadian sign-ups.
As far as fully legal and regulated options go for the rest of Canada, at the moment there’s only one and it’s only available to players in three provinces:
Despite the different names and appearance, PlayNow Poker and OK Poker are the same product, from the same technology supplier, operating on the same network.
Most of Canada’s online lottery and iGaming sites use the same deposit methods. Though there are only a handful of these, they cover enough bases that almost every user should be able to find one that works for them:
There are some exceptions. Currently, PlayAlberta accepts only credit card payments, using Visa and MasterCard, though it says it will add Interac soon. OLG does not have a prepayment option, and does not accept American Express.
In all cases, there is only a single withdrawal option, which is direct bank transfer. This requires verification of your banking info, and is easier to do if you have online banking set up.
Given the low traffic of the lottery sites and the fact that legitimate international operators are currently serving Canadian customers in a gray market capacity, it may be tempting to choose the latter. While such sites, which operate in fully licensed and legal fashion elsewhere, are a safer choice than black market operators, they still can’t provide you with the same level of safety you’ll enjoy at an official, white market site.
Also in Ontario, those gray market operators may no longer operate soon in the province. Now that Ontario has a legal, regulated market, those apps may become illegal in the future.
Here are the advantages that the lottery sites hold over the gray market. Let’s call them the four Rs of the white market:
Those are the advantages of a white market site over a gray market site that is otherwise compliant and operates with a license elsewhere. The comparison between legal sites and black market operations is even starker. The latter sites don’t hold a license from any legitimate regulator, and serve even countries that actively try to keep them out.
Here’s why you should avoid black market sites at all costs:
All that advice isn’t worth much if you can’t tell the difference between operators. So, how do you know what type of operation you’re looking at?
Didn’t find what you were looking for above? Here are some quick answers to other common questions.
Other than in Ontario, only the provincial lotteries are authorized to operate online casinos on Canadian soil. The legal status of offshore casinos serving Canadian customers is ambiguous. Many do so, and don’t meet with interference, but this could change at any moment. In particular, Ontario says it will take action against such operators.
The minimum age for gambling in Canada varies from province to province. You must be 19 years old to gamble online in most provinces and territories. However, the following jurisdictions have a minimum age of 18 instead:
Probably not. Generally speaking, gambling winnings are not taxable in Canada, and you don’t have to declare them. There is an exception, however, in that professional gamblers are expected to treat their winnings as self-employment income, which means reporting and paying tax on it.
This is less of an issue for casino gamblers than it is for poker players and sports bettors, as casino games aren’t generally beatable. That said, if you don’t have a regular job, use a system to turn a consistent profit at any sort of gambling, and treat that as your primary source of income, then the Canada Revenue Agency might consider you a professional and expect you to declare your income.
In Ontario, AGCO is the regulatory agency. In the rest of the country, there’s no separate regulatory body for gambling issues in Canada. That’s because the lottery corporations themselves are owned by the provincial governments, which allow them to set their own rules.
If efforts to privatize some Canadian online gambling markets succeed outside of Ontario, the lottery corporations will probably retain that regulatory authority, while day-to-day operations of the sites themselves will be handled by private companies.
Canada’s overall political stance leans more to the public sector than private markets when it comes to so-called “vice” products. That’s why almost all gambling has been assigned to provincial lotteries, just as liquor and cannabis sales are handled by crown corporations in most parts of the country.
There’s also significant resistance to the idea of having legal online casinos at all. Many gambling opponents feel that the government should be doing more to try to block offshore gambling sites from serving Canadians, rather than trying to out-compete them with a safer, official alternative.
Generally speaking, Canada is slowly moving in the direction of a more liberalized market, but it’s likely that crown corporations will always be involved in some capacity.
Ontario is the first province to allow private online gambling operators to compete with its lottery offering.
PokerStars serves Canadian customers, but in a gray market capacity. While you won’t get in trouble for playing there, it isn’t as safe as the lottery-run sites.
Daily fantasy sports falls into the same category as all other online gambling in Canada. That is, Canadian law doesn’t say anything about it one way or another. Because it’s not expressly illegal, DFS sites like DraftKings and FanDuel serve Canadian customers. Both companies shut DFS down before the Ontario market launched on Apr. 4, 2022.
By the same token, however, DFS sites aren’t licensed or regulated, so you use these sites at your own risk.
Yes. It has been legal since 1969 and is regulated by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency. It is separate from the provincial lotteries, however, so you can’t bet on horses through lottery retailers, not the lottery corporations’ websites. This means that, strictly speaking, it’s only really legal to do in person at racetracks and off-track betting parlors.
This hasn’t changed for horse racing yet in Ontario, despite the privatized market launching on Apr. 4, 2022.
In practice, online horse betting is in the same category as online sports betting. Many offshore racebooks accept Canadian customers. That includes both less reputable, wholly unregulated ones, as well as some more trustworthy ones that operate in a licensed and regulated fashion in other countries.