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Reflecting on Two Years of Online Casino Growth in Canada

Just under two years ago, Canada (slightly) opened its doors to the online gambling industry. In a move designed to increase tax revenues and help reduce problems associated with a gray/black market, a licensing regime was introduced for online casinos. In addition, legislation was introduced to allow provinces to regulate the sports betting market independently.

To some observers, these two moves could seem somewhat innocuous. To the expert eye, however, the significance was clear from the start: the Canadian online gambling market was about to change from top to bottom.

The last two years have seen a seismic shift for consumers, Canadian provinces, and the gambling industry in its entirety. Reflecting on what we’ve seen so far, we can already predict what seems like an absolute certainty: the rapid expansion of the online casino industry.

Growing Pains for the Industry

It’s not all been smooth sailing, however. Recent reports, for example, show that certain criminal organizations have taken advantage of the burgeoning yet young casino industry for money laundering purposes.

The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada released a bulletin that exposes how the industry can be exploited, particularly if security and effective payment tracking are not conducted.

This justifies the continued industry investment in combating these issues. This includes the implementation of AI-driven tools for improved security measures, amongst others.

The Process of Vetting Operators

Serious issues are still relatively rare and are no cause for alarm to the player. Yet still, that does not mean that the quality of casinos is equal across the board. With the industry still in its early growth phases, some online casinos are not yet up to the expected standards.

For consumers, it highlights the necessity to verify the casinos that they are signing up to. That’s why it’s so important to not simply Google individual casinos, but use independent third-party sources that help with the vetting process. For example, reviews of legitimate online casinos at Playcasinos.ca provide in-depth reports on Canadian operators, ensuring the safety of its players.

Increased Tax Revenues

The Canadian government did not change legislation simply to protect the consumer. It’s clear that increasing the provincial coffers was also part of the strategy, particularly with recent economic struggles in the last few years.

In 2024, we’ve already seen some very significant results. Tax revenues have been significant, with Ontario alone generating over $280 million. Of course, changes are still slow. Most provinces still do not have a framework in place for online casinos or sports gambling.

In British Columbia, for example, PlayNow is the only gambling site that legally operates within the province. Alberta has a similar setup, with PlayAlberta monopolizing the market. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, however, still do not have anything in place, neither a government-backed online casino nor a licensing system.

The most advanced province, at present, is Ontario. There are currently over 70 licenses that have been granted, with the province using the iGaming regulatory framework to ensure legitimate transactions and consumer safety.

Accessing Casinos Abroad

The question that pops up for many consumers is whether it is legal to gamble online, particularly when accessing non-Canadian casinos. The answer is yes, you can gamble online without fear of legal repercussions.

However, that does not mean you should sign up for any casino you find online. Unfortunately, as highlighted above, criminal organizations operate in every industry that operates on the internet, which means caution is required.

In the first instance, you should verify that your chosen casino has a government license, whether it is from a Canadian province or a licensing board from another government. This varies depending on the country, but always check this independently (i.e. do not trust claims on casino websites themselves).

For the Canadian market, it is clear that in order to compete with casinos based abroad, a more robust licensing system is necessary. Attempting to keep players by way of monopolizing the local market will simply not work, as consumers have plenty of choices from casinos based in other countries.

What’s Next for the Canadian Market?

In the first instance, we’re thinking more of the same. We’re still very much in the bedding-in period, with the industry relatively young compared to established countries like the United Kingdom (where William Hill has been operating online for 25+ years).

However, as we all know, the internet is a fast-paced environment, where changes happen quickly and dynamically. Expect to see a quick improvement of the current services on offer, with more games, higher quality apps, and a wider selection for players.

This is all negative for land-based casinos, assuming they don’t adapt and launch their own solutions. Market share has been decreasing across the board, with online gambling a preferred go-to for many contemporary consumers.

With the money laundering scandal now in full view, you can also expect the industry to self-heal as it matures, with assistance from organizations such as Fintrac and other government agencies. Growing pains are to be expected, of course.

It’s early, but the future looks bright indeed. With the positive results seen in Ontario, it can be expected that other provinces will follow suit in due course. It’s not a question of if, but when.