The Future of Online Gaming in Canada

Recent years have seen an enormous growth in the online gaming sector worldwide, and unsurprisingly the Canadian market has been no exception. The most recent figures available from the Canadian Gaming Association put the total yearly purchased services at $14 billion and gross output at $31 billion, with these numbers projected to rise in the future. The recent upswing in mobile gaming has undoubtedly given an added boost to the ever-growing popularity of Canadian online casino usage, allowing players as it does to access their favorite mobile bookmakers, poker rooms and casinos on the go. Canadian players are just as eager to play online casino games as their counterparts around the world, and the growing market is a reflection of that fact.

No centralised regulatory standard

The Canadian government prefers a decentralized approach when it comes to gambling regulations, allowing each Canadian territory or province to determine their own at the state, rather than federal, level. The longest-established hub of iGaming in Canada is the province of Québec, which was the first to grant licenses to operators, but other states are set to follow suit. Taking their cue from the success of the sector in other parts of the country, more and more states are now considering a relaxation of existing gambling laws in order to benefit from the increased investment and growth it would encourage.

Getting in on the action

Keen to share in the success of the existing online casino industry in Canada, and aware that at present a lot of potential revenue is being lost to ‘unauthorized iGaming’ – i.e. operators outside of Canada which are used by Canadian citizens – the territories of Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba are working on moderating the legislation allowing providers to trade from their areas. Such is the current trajectory of the Canadian iGaming industry figures, that it appears that a bricks-and-mortar casino proposed in Ottawa since 2012 may have finally been rejected amid questions on the potential profitability of such a venture in the face of such fierce competition from the online market.

A bit of hubris?

Although there is a lot of excitement surrounding the iGaming industry in Canada, a note of caution was sounded when it emerged that The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG had overestimated last year’s revenue forecasts by some 30 per cent. Nevertheless, the Canadian economy stands to profit considerably from the sector.

Legal challenge to proposed law

At this time, Québec’s online gambling industry is controlled by the government-run Loto-Québec. Last year saw a legal tussle between the Québec government and the Canadian telecommunications regulator (CRTC), when the regulator refused to comply with a new law requiring internet service providers to block all unlicensed internet gambling sites. The fact that the CRTC deemed this new law to be unconstitutional – specifically that it violates the federal Telecommunications Act – is illustrative of the fact that Canadian online gambling laws are still rather unclear, with no legislation overtly prohibiting players from using offshore platforms.

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A grey area

The ongoing uncertainty around the legality of online casinos in Canada can prove problematic for Canadian players. For example, due to the hazy legislation and non-centralized licensing, innocent players could find themselves inadvertently on the wrong side of the law and with no protection should things go wrong.

The only way is up

It is undeniably in the best interests of the Canadian federal government to clear up some of the confusion that presently surrounds online casino regulation. As with anything related to the internet, it is perhaps inevitable that legislation lags behind reality as lawmakers struggle to keep up with the rapidly improving technology. However, with the inarguably lucrative Canadian iGaming market remaining relatively neglected by government agencies, a lot of players and operators are still in a legal grey area which is probably doing nobody any favours. Despite the over-confident financial predictions of the OLG, it is clear that the future of iGaming will only continue to ascend. Advances in mobile technology and virtual reality will continue to be incorporated into online casino technology, and it is more than possible that these virtual platforms will all but replace the physical casino in the coming decades.