Canada, like many other big economies, including Australia, France, and Germany, has had issues in clarifying its gambling laws. This is not uncommon, as many countries have legal precedents based on older acts of parliament that viewed gambling as an activity you did in person, such as going to the racetrack or visiting the casino on tribal lands. The internet changed the game – literally.
It’s not a criticism, as many countries worldwide struggled to anticipate how all-encompassing the internet would be. A good example is the UK, which tried to modernize all its gambling laws with the 2005 Gambling Act. You might think, sure, the internet was widely available, as was online gambling, but this was several years before any had heard of an iPhone, 5G, VPNs, or cryptocurrency, all of which (both legally and illegally) influence modern gambling today. Right now, the UK joins many other countries in struggling to get gambling bills through parliament.
Canada has had a complicated system
As for Canada, well, it’s been messy. Legislation powers were put in the hands of the provinces in 1985, and online gambling has had some sense of legality since 1996 in certain areas. But largely, it had been disjointed, with complete online gambling accessible in some parts of the country and not others. Government-backed platforms were – and are – available, but this does not sit well in an ultra-competitive industry.
One of the main issues that came to the fore was the presence of both offshore and illegal gambling sites, a problem that had been exasperated by the use of VPNs (allowing users to spoof their locations).
Broadly, this became known as gambling’s legal grey market. In Ontario and elsewhere in the country, it was illegal to gamble on unlicensed gambling platforms, but since many of the offshore operators were licensed somewhere in the world, that technicality meant there was little to worry bettors. But Ontario has led the way for change, passing the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act in April 2022.
Licensed international casino brands now available in Ontario
The act led the way for a comprehensive regulated gambling market in the province, granting licenses to online casinos and betting platforms to operate legally in the province. The international gaming company Mansion Group, for example, now operates a fully-licensed online casino in Ontario under its casino.com brand. Of course, as Ontario’s regulators demanded high standards, not all brands got a license, and many of those operating in the grey area have had to exit the market.
All of this should be celebrated as the way forward. We have made several comparisons to the rest of the world, but what unites many lawmakers is a sense of kicking the can down the road. Ontario’s lawmakers decided to do something about it.
A regulated online gambling market offers regulatory oversight, taxation, player protections, and the chance to implement responsible gambling initiatives. On the flip side, a grey market means that regulators are powerless, potential tax revenues disappear, a lack of player protection, and little opportunity for the government to promote responsible gambling.
Of course, for clarity, we should point out that Ontario is not the only Canadian province that has acted to clarify its gambling laws. But as the province that contains almost 40% of the population, it is clearly important that lawmakers take such steps. Hopefully, others will follow suit.