The laws of Canada as they apply to online gambling and playing online poker aren’t particularly well understood for those living outside of Canada. This has led to quite a few people to consider Canada to be in a “grey area” so to speak when it comes to the legality of playing online poker there. This page hopes to clarify all of that and which are the best Canadian poker sites out there today.
Now to start, Canadians have long enjoyed playing online poker since its inception. In fact, they have a long-standing history of playing at most of the popular sites, including PokerStars and bodog.ca. There are still tiny caveats here and there, along with laws that have sometimes interfered with Canadians getting online to enjoy online poker, but the times have evolved and we will attempt to educate those who wish to know about the legalities surrounding iGaming in this country.
The selection of online poker sites for Canadians remains pretty solid these days, with a only a handful no longer accepting players in the region. Unfortunately, the aforementioned grey area that was mentioned earlier has influenced the decision-making process of those companies, even though the laws explicitly state such online poker states don’t interfere with the state-run entities that Quebec and British Columbia offer its citizens.
Best Online Poker Sites for Canadians
What The Gaming Law In Canada Really Says
What consists of illegal gambling in Canada is defined and governed by the Criminal Code of Canada, which uniformly applies to all areas of the country. The law here addresses specific instances of gambling, namely, keeping a common betting or gaming house, being present at one without a lawful excuse, and running bookmaking or lottery operations.
Gambling itself has never been illegal here, although gambling at a common gambling house, one set up to profit from gambling, is. Inherent in this definition though is that the “gaming house” or “betting house” fit the definition as set out in the law, and this clearly addresses an establishment that is set up at a location in Canada to facilitate gambling or betting.
So the restrictions here are on operators essentially, to disallow the operating of facilities hosting gambling for a profit in Canada, without explicit permission of course. So Canada does have licensed casinos, as well as lotteries, who do have such permission, otherwise running these establishments would not be legal.
We also are seeing some online gambling being offered in Canada, by the B.C. Lottery for instance, this would be akin to regulated online gambling that we see elsewhere, but the regulations are only domestically inclusive, meaning that one needs a license to run such an enterprise in Canada. This is why you don’t see Canadian-run online gambling sites, generally speaking.
The gambling being run out of the Kannawake Reserve is an exception, however, they consider themselves a separate nation and therefore not being subject to the laws of Canada. The Canadian authorities leave them alone, so it remains an open question as to whether or not they are running a common gaming or betting house or not, but it doesn’t matter.
Some people were concerned when Amaya Gaming, a Canadian company, bought PokerStars, and feared that they would withdraw from the Canadian market out of an abundance of caution. Amaya had been in the gambling business for some time prior to that though and have never offered gambling outside of Canada, mainly because they have operations in so many different countries with different licenses needing to be obtained in each jurisdiction.
But, since PokerStars itself does not consist of a common gaming or betting house located in Canada, the law does not apply, even if its Amaya is headquartered here. This is another reason why so many players from the United States moved to Canada after Black Friday, so they were able to play on bigger sites like PokerStars and avoid any legal troubles by state lawmakers.
Is Gambling Itself Legal In Canada?
Gambling in of itself is not illegal in Canada though, and that’s the most important point. “Not illegal” means legal by the way, the absence of a law against it. One could always gamble legally provided it was not done at a common gaming or betting house, in the privacy of one’s on home for instance.
In essence, playing online poker consists of just that, gambling done in private. The focus of Canadian gambling law is on prohibiting gambling establishments, and the crime of being present at one also serves to look to limit such activities by dissuading both the operators and the clientele.
Where some people get confused here is what the law actually prohibits. Let’s say you wanted to run a gambling establishment in Canada. You would have to get permission from the regulatory authorities, otherwise you’d be breaking the law, and committing a criminal offense actually.
This would be the case if you wanted to run an online poker site in Canada as well. Now how does this work from a player’s perspective? If they want to play at a regulated Canadian site, they could choose to do so, and the operator would not have to worry because they would have a license.
Does this mean that Canadians can only play at Canadian regulated sites? Well, not at all actually. Given that gambling itself isn’t illegal, only certain types, gambling at a site located and regulated in another jurisdiction is beyond the purview of Canadian law, as it does not involve gambling at a common gaming or betting house located in Canada.
This is just like taking a trip to Monte Carlo or Las Vegas actually, even though there is betting going on in Canada in this case, but once again, the betting itself isn’t illegal at all.
In some jurisdictions, where the betting took place, whether it took place in Canada or at the location of the servers, is a hotly-debated legal topic in some areas. However, this is of no consequence here actually, because regardless of whether the betting is understood to take place in Canada or not, there are no prohibitions either way.
Canada Painted A Little Grey
As mentioned earlier, there are some online poker sites and online gambling sites these days who have recently exited the Canadian market, but this has nothing to do with changes or even potential changes to Canadian gaming laws regarding any of this.
Rather, it had to do with the new regulatory requirements of the U.K. gambling commission, which has restrictions on sites that are to be granted a license as far as the allowable extent of their business residing in grey area jurisdictions.
So some sites either believed or worried that Canada would be seen as such a grey country, and out of caution, withdrew from the Canadian market during the licensing procedures. As it turned out, these concerns were unwarranted, and many online poker sites, including PokerStars and 888, the two biggest, successfully received their U.K. license in spite of still accepting Canadians.
We may wonder whether or not sites like Titan Poker will ever rethink their decision to exclude Canadians, but no matter really, the access to online poker sites for Canadians remains broad and those companies have strived to make the player experience better and safer over the years. The impact to the market has been quite minimal and generally only involve choosing a different skin to access a certain poker network.
Are Gambling Winnings Taxable in Canada?
Generally, winnings from poker and gambling are not considered to be income, and all gambling winnings are tax-free. Canadians have the lottery to thank for this not changing, because being tax-free is one of the big selling points of Canadian lotteries.
If a Canadian gambles for a living though – meaning that the main source of a person’s income is from gambling – that would be seen as business income and would need to be declared in order to abide with tax law.
Provided that playing online poker isn’t your main source of income, then what you win is what you keep, which isn’t the case in many countries, so Canadians are quite fortunate actually on this count.
Depositing and Withdrawing For Canadian Poker Players
Depositing with Canadian credit cards at online poker sites can be a hit or miss affair, but only because certain banks are more reluctant to take on the additional risks of the funds being charged back, and gambling deposits have a much higher rate of this.
Internet wallets are very popular here. It’s been a number of years since Canadians could use PayPal or Neteller to deposit at poker rooms, but several other good options exist, including Instadebit, a Canadian-based eWallet which is very popular here. Skrill is also a popular choice due to their history of safety, security and low fees.
Players can also have money transferred to and from their Canadian bank accounts very easily as well. Overall, there are no issues with moving money in and out of online poker sites for Canadians. Also, sites routinely accept deposits and process cashouts in either CAD or USD.
Playing Online Poker In Canada
In the grand scheme of things, Canadians enjoy a quite a wide selection of the best internet poker rooms anywhere. And residents may not be able to play at popular sites like Titan Poker and a handful of others right now, they still have major access to even more reputable companies like 888, Full Tilt and PartyPoker.
PokerStars is of course very popular here, as it is just about everywhere. The bonus options, along with the fact that Stars provides the best software on the planet makes it a very attractive option for players. Its partner site, Full Tilt, has also made quite the comeback since its Black Friday downfall in 2011 and is now one of the biggest Canadian-friendly poker sites in the area.
Players who are looking for some even looser action may choose from among some of the smaller poker sites in terms of traffic, they are free to try out pretty much anything they want and settle on what they prefer. The rooms on the iPoker Network are definitely ones to watch out for, as most of their sites are filled with fish and not as reg-heavy as Stars.
Of course, with this wide of a selection, Canadians play what they want, whenever they want, at what stakes they want. Things have been great for years as far as playing online poker in Canada, they are great now, and there’s no reason to expect that it won’t continue to be great.