Internet gambling laws in Canada are, if nothing else, convoluted. Canada, with the exception of Quebec, is a common law country. This means that the decisions of previous courts have a large impact in setting the precedent, and therefore to a large extent, the law – or at least the application of the statutes passed by the various legislatures. What does this mean to us? It means that in the absence of any current court decisions that directly apply to internet sports betting, we must attempt to interpret the statutes in terms of previous court decisions regarding them.
Canada Online Gambling Laws At its inception in 1867, the Canada Criminal Code made gambling activities 100% illegal. Since then, however, there has been a general repealing of the laws to allow various types of gambling activity. In 1969 the Federal Government made it possible for the individual provinces to implement a variety of lottery and wagering variants, to include via electronic device.
All of the provinces have taken advantage of this, and have established the array pf lottery options available today. The only area that the Federal Government retained exclusive dominion over was pari-mutuel wagering. All of the provinces have maintained that electronic gaming devices are legal only if operated by the provincial government. It is categorically illegal to operate an online gambling site in Canada. The exception being the Kahnawake reserve, which has a certain amount of legal autonomy. The Kahnawakes have exploited this autonomy to their advantage and are the host to hundreds of online gambling sites. The topic of jurisdiction with respect to internet gambling has also been debated. Some have held that the actual gambling takes place on the server, so if the server is not in Canada, then the gambling is not in Canada. However, a federal court of appeals ruling in the case of SOCAN vs Canadian Association of Internet Providers found that the relevant factors in establishing jurisdiction were not solely based on server location.
Connecting factors such as the location of the content provider and the location of the end user were also included in determining where the activity took place. This would seem to put an end to the argument that server location is the sole determinant of jurisdiction. Can The Bettor be Prosecuted? What then of the end user? Is the gambler allowed, under Canada law, to place his bets on the internet? No law addresses this directly, but there is a large amount of legal precedent to suggest that the bettor cannot be held accountable under Canadian law.
The most notable decision in this regard is the 1997 decision of the Supreme Court in the matter of Canada vs Nelson. The court ruling in this case held that, “… This does not preclude the Canadian government (or a particular province) from enacting a statute that makes placing bets on the internet a crime in Canada. It would, however, seem unlikely given Canada’s involvement in the settlement against the US in the WTO dispute with Antigua regarding internet gambling. Canada would not want to follow the US down the road to WTO settlements to the tune of $US 21 million per year. Accordingly, Canadian sports bettors should find the legal environment safe and hospitable for the foreseeable future. s. 202(1)(b) (of the Canada Code) does not prohibit gambling itself, but rather is aimed at penalizing the conduct of persons who attempt to profit from the gambling of others .
Accordingly, it is argued that this provision does not prohibit the keeping of those things which an individual might use for his or her own gambling…but rather prohibits those things which a commercial operator would keep as part of his or her enterprise in profiting from the gambling of others. ”
This strongly implies that the current laws do not apply to individual bettors, and you would not be prosecuted in Canada for placing bets on the internet.