• By: Allen Brown

Explaining the Canadian Online Casino Industry in 2024

The Canadian online casino industry is often a hot topic for discussion given it is one of the largest markets in the world. Moreover, when you factor in the potential legislative changes that may soon take place, many countries also look to Canada to help form their own opinions and laws. 

In this article, we will take a look at the current state of the Canadian online casino industry, going over legislation, recent trends and developments, and what the overall consensus about online casinos seems to be. Let’s get right into it. 

The Changing Legal Landscape 

First and foremost, let’s examine the current legal landscape of iGaming in Canada. Over the past few years, Canada has made a shift in legislation that seems to represent a more open and accepting view of online gambling. Numerous changes have made it more accessible for outside parties to host their casinos in Canada, and it has also made it legal for Canadians to play at online casinos in most provinces.

It is worth noting that online casinos are still not able to be operated directly within Canada (with a few key exceptions), but with the recent changes in legislation, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this was overruled in the near future.

In reality, Canada has a thriving iGaming scene. There are over 19.3 million active online gamblers in Canada, with every six out of ten Canadians reportedly participating in one form or another.

The inability to launch online casinos locally only affects a very small demographic – Canadians who would like to launch their own online casino. As you may expect, this is an extremely small percentage of the population. Even then, there are workarounds that allow Canadians to work with companies internationally, practically making this law obsolete.

But it’s not completely true that it is illegal for online casinos to operate in Canada. Each province has its own rules regarding the legality of online casinos, with most allowing just one provincially licensed operator to conduct business throughout the region.

For example, in Quebec, Espacejeux is permitted to operate within the region and provide sports betting and online casino services. Similarly, PlayNow is available to those who reside in British Columbia or Manitoba and is the only provincially regulated operator. Alberta has a single licensed casino and sportsbook, Play Alberta.

To participate in the regulated iGaming market in Ontario, operators are required to obtain a registration from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and enter into an operating agreement with iGaming Ontario (iGO), a subsidiary of the AGCO.  This doesn’t seem to hurt the industry at all – Ontario operators reported gambling revenues of $2.4 billion between April 2023 and March 2024.

Canada has one of the most relaxed outlooks on gambling when compared to most other countries, and it only seems to be getting better.

Mobile Casinos Are King

Another interesting trend in the Canadian online casino industry is the outright takeover of mobile casinos. Just a few years ago, there were barely any options for players who wanted to play on mobile. This was partly due to technology limitations such as poor processing power, small screens, and lag, but it was also due to the next to non-existent mobile compatibility that most online casinos had.

Fast forward to now and this issue has almost been reversed. Not only is almost every online casino out there now mobile-compatible, but there are even dedicated mobile casinos that were created with mobile players in mind. That’s not even considering the upgrades in mobile technology like larger screens and more intuitive controls. 

This has led to a significant shift in the way we play and experience online casinos, with the majority now choosing to do so on mobile at least in part. This phenomenon is likely only going to speed up as mobile phones become better, cheaper, and more accessible, with more online casinos choosing to prioritise mobile compatibility. Even popular review sites like GambleOntario now rate casinos based on mobile accessibility and/or app availability. 

We may eventually see a world where online casinos are primarily designed for mobiles and PC’s/desktops are left in the dust. This is unlikely since PC’s will always take up a percentage of the playerbase – some people will just always prefer the PC. However, we could see the industry at large begin to prioritise mobiles over desktop in the near future. 

Cutting-Edge Technology 

With the technology we have access to today, some truly wonderful things are possible. Of course, technology is progressing exponentially in every industry (education, healthcare, travel; you name it). But in an industry as progressive and innovative as the iGaming industry, online casino companies leave nothing on the table when it comes to giving their players the best of the best. 

This takes form in a plethora of ways, with perhaps the most important being security. Many online casinos now leverage AI and blockchain technology to provide their players with the best possible security, drastically reducing the chances of any large-scale hacks or data leaks becoming a reality. 

Another way online casinos are utilising technology is by streamlining processes and reducing costs. By taking advantage of blockchain technology, online casinos can make their systems run much smoother and cut down on unnecessary costs that could be spent elsewhere.

That all goes without mentioning AR and VR. While these technologies have yet to become commonplace, we are seeing more online casinos in Canada experiment with AR and VR in some capacity. As the months progress, we may begin to see fully-fledged virtual casinos come out of the woodwork. 

Online casinos are now more advanced than ever in Canada, and this positive trend of innovation and growth is not likely to end anytime soon. 

A Greater Focus on Responsible Gambling 

While many now realise the importance of responsible gambling, Canada is one of the few countries that has made this a focus point. There are endless resources available to those in Canada who feel like they are struggling with gambling, and that’s not even mentioning the many educational campaigns they have that point out how to stay safe. 

Steps like setting time limits, creating budgets, walking away when on a losing streak, and knowing when to seek help are reinforced time and time again in Canada, giving players every possible opportunity to make sure their experience remains fun and healthy. 

This also extends to online casino platforms themselves. Sites like GambleOntario and other big names in the industry regularly promote responsible gambling practices and offer helpful resources. 

There is also just more awareness surrounding gambling issues in Canada compared to most other places in the world. Gambling issues are taken seriously, and people who do struggle are encouraged to seek help when necessary.

This has led to a much more positive industry focused on well-being and health, and despite what you may think, it has also caused the scene to flourish. Canada is a prime example that gambling can be a perfectly healthy pastime when done right, showing those who are still not open to the discussion that acceptance is the better model. 

Of course, this isn’t to downplay the very real issues that can arise from problem gambling – this is also something that Canada has made sure people are aware of. Gambling without restraint can cause a wide range of problems including financial difficulties, relationship problems, mental illnesses, and even health issues. 

It’s about finding a balance, giving players the freedom to gamble to their heart’s content while also providing ample resources to inform them how to play safe and what to do if they are struggling. Canada has managed to strike this juggling act perfectly, creating an atmosphere of freedom and care. 

This all goes without mentioning the growing emphasis on community. The power of community is often lost in the modern West. However, in Canada, as well as many other places around the world, this is beginning to change.  Whether it be tournaments, forums, events, or even support groups, Canadians are embracing community and seeking out like-minded individuals.

By knowing the potential risks, points to follow to ensure gambling remains healthy, the power of community, and what steps to take if things get out of control, Canada has created an online casino scene that is fun, supportive, and blossoming.

Final Thoughts 

Despite being one of the most restrictive locations in terms of legislation and legalisation, Canada has some of the most forward-thinking gambling policies in the whole world. The focus on responsible gambling and community has undoubtedly made a positive influence on the industry as a whole, and the changing legal landscape gives us a glimpse into a world where online casinos could be accepted worldwide. 

Of course, the fact that online casinos are generally not able to be operated from within Canada is certainly a negative, but this is of little concern to most players as there are plenty of online casinos designed for Canadian players that are hosted internationally.

It will be interesting to see which direction the online casino industry in Canada goes within the next few years. Whatever happens, the world will be watching.