Gambling in the Online Age.

AuthorHoward, Lillian

Reading Time: 4 minutes

While gambling facilities must have a provincial license to operate, only government-operated websites offer legal gambling online.

You have probably seen ads for online gambling websites all over the place--commercials, social media, even at the Superbowl. But did you know these websites are not always legal for Canadians to use, even if they're advertised to you?

Online gambling does not just mean digital slot machines or virtual blackjack. Although these are common, it can also include betting sites or lotteries, among others. These different types of gambling are mostly managed by provincial governments. For example, the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC) oversees gambling in Alberta. If you visit a large casino in your area, there's usually no doubt about whether it's operating legally. But how does that work when you're gambling online?

Is it legal?

Gambling is only legal in Canada if the institution hosting the gambling has a licence. Each province has its own regulatory body that issues and oversees licences in that province. In Alberta, the Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission oversees gambling. It does so under the authority of the Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Act.

It is tricky to guarantee whether a venue is licenced if you're playing online. Websites may not be clear on their country of origin or may not show proof of licencing. Sometimes, they may not take proper steps to make sure minors are not using their services. Many websites rely on an honour system for a user to mark their age when they sign up. Some websites do take more steps to verify a user's identity. But even an adult user may be uncomfortable giving their personal information to a site they are not sure is legal.

British Columbia was the first province to create its own official online gambling website, PlayNow. The British Columbia Lottery Corporation designed and owns PlayNow. They've also made PlayNow available in other provinces like Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Those provinces have adopted it as their own official gambling website rather than start from scratch. Alberta's official online gambling venue is PlayAlberta, which is the only regulated website in our province.

It is legal only for provincial governments to have online gambling websites in Canada. In other words, other organizations cannot get licences to offer gaming online. However, it is very popular for Canadians to use unregulated websites...

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