US & Canada Online Casino Laws: So close, yet so far away.
Online gambling exists on every continent, in almost every country around the world. The legal climates may differ, but the internet is a hard thing to police. So whether it’s authorized, prohibited or virtually ignored by governments, often has little bearing on the matter.
In North America, we have two countries where online casinos thrive, the US and Canada. Only two US states currently regulate the activity – Delaware and New Jersey. That’s only 4% of US states. Pennsylvania recently signed legislation to join in the iGaming party, but it will be late 2018 (at the earliest) before any websites are up and running.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are eight US states (16%) where online gambling is expressly prohibited. These include Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin. That leaves 40 states (80%) that fall into the apothegmatic ‘grey area‘ of the law.
Note: Nevada regulates online poker only. Online casino games face strict prohibition.
To the north, Canada looks pretty similar, except for the number of jurisdictions. We only have 13 provinces and territories, not 50 states. Among them, eight (62%) have authorized internet gambling, but only four (31%) regulate online casinos.
British Columbia, Manitoba (through a software sharing deal with BC), Ontario and Quebec permit online casino gambling. The Atlantic provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, only permit “instant win” games, like lottery and bingo.
There are several ways in which the online gambling laws in Canada and the US are similar. The subtle differences, however, put them much father apart.
Comparing US & Canada Online Casino Laws
Both Canada and the US have a constitution and bylaws in place that delegate gambling related matters to their individual provinces, territories and states. That means that it’s not up to the federal government to decide if online casinos, or any form of gambling, is legal or illegal. Federal laws merely state that all gambling is illegal, unless a jurisdiction specifically authorizes it.
Both nation’s are also ‘free countries‘. Constitutional rights grant people the freedom of choice, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of press, etc. That little tidbit will become important later on.
As detailed above, some states and provinces have utilized their right to legalize and regulate online casinos, while others have not.
In terms of differences, one could argue that Canada is more open to online gambling, while US states have a more opportunistic regulatory system. In New Jersey, for example, multiple online gambling operators can participate. So long as they are teamed up with a land-based casino (Atlantic City is teeming with them), they can apply for a licence. This creates an antagonistic market where consumers benefit from competition and choice.
In Canada, online gambling sites are under the governance and direct operation of their province. Each jurisdiction has only one internet casino offering. There’s no authorization for competition. This monopolistic approach grants no incentive for consumers.
Negative Response to Online Gambling Laws Canada
The end result is a community of online gamers in regulated US states that are, for the most part, perfectly happy to participate in the offerings of their resident jurisdiction. The opposite is true in Canada. Online casino laws here are so restrictive, they are encouraging players to look to offshore, internationally regulated online gambling sites.
The global market can be a dangerous place for uninformed gamblers. Rogue operators do exist, and they are all too happy to run off with their players’ money at the drop of a hat. Plenty of well regulated sites exist, but Canadians who choose this route must do their homework. Only long-standing, reputable and responsibly regulated sites should be attended.
On the plus side, with Canada falling into that ‘grey area’ of the law I mentioned before, there’s nothing illegal about it. Because we live in a free country, legislators cannot take away our freedom of choice. If we choose to gamble, so be it. It’s not illegal. And if we choose to visit international websites to gamble, telecommunication regulators have already confirmed that, per the Constitution, provincial governments can’t stop us.