Betting is wildly popular all over the world, adding drama and excitement to sporting events for neutral observers and giving fans another way to express loyalty to their favourite teams. Canada is no different, with millions of citizens placing wagers every week on a wide variety of sports in a range of different ways. The government regulates betting, but as is the case in many countries, there are plenty of grey areas. For foreigners travelling to Canada, this can be daunting and confusing. It is important to understand the legality of betting as well as the options available. The ubiquity of smartphones and tablets has led to the phenomenal rise of online gambling, with thousands of casinos and sportsbooks vying for business in an industry that turns over billions of dollars of revenue each year. With a bit of research and background reading on the matter, tourists can get a handle on the dos and don’ts, and enjoy sports betting in Canada.
Betting in Canada
Gambling on sports in Canada has its roots over 600 years ago, with indigenous people wagering on such activities as archery, running, horse riding and canoe racing. It was as much for honing essential skills in a hostile habitat as it was for entertainment/profiteering. After European settlement in Canada, gambling laws were written. However, the vast size of the country and the remoteness of communities made any centralized legislation all but impossible to enforce. Fast forward a couple of centuries and in 1892, and gambling was entirely outlawed by the government, carrying criminal penalties for disobeying. However, as with many colonized countries, betting on horse racing was legal, and individual bets on other sports (i.e., not through a bookmaker) were tolerated. Lotteries were legalized in 1969, but the real change came in 1985 when the federal government realized how much revenue it could bring in from betting. However, sports betting on single events was still outlawed, and it was only legal through a lottery-based system. As online gambling became popular in the 1990s onwards, it became clear that Canada’s laws needed overhauling, so now, some forms of sports gambling are legal, and others are not. Simple, huh?
Current Legal Status
Visitors are advised to make themselves familiar with current gambling laws if they intend to place bets in Canada. Legislation, which covers sports betting in the country, is still in need of reform, especially as online gambling has reshaped the industry. It isn’t strictly illegal – at least it isn’t mentioned, meaning there are no restrictions – to bet on single sporting events online, but it is illegal in an actual land-based establishment. Anyone over the age of 19 can visit casinos, horse racecourses and lottery establishments and play freely. All venues for gambling must be properly licensed under federal or provincial law – horse racing is licensed federally and the provinces regulate casinos, lotteries and bingo etc. Sports betting is also regulated at the provincial level, and online sportsbooks must also be licensed, but this is harder to enforce, and no punter has been prosecuted for using an unlicensed online sportsbook, either Canadian or off-shore.
Where and How to Play
There is no shortage of options when it comes to finding a place to bet on sports in Canada. With so many sportsbooks available online it can be a bit overwhelming, especially for foreign visitors. Luckily, resources such as SuperLenny provide listings and ratings, allowing you to browse through the best places to place bets easily. Canadians, like most other places, place bets with percentage odds, so visitors shouldn’t have a problem – however, it may be worth placing some low stakes wagers to get a feel for it. If you are entirely new to sports betting, many of the apps available help you work out potential returns and guide you through placing different types of bets.
Popular Sports in Canada
As with the USA, the most popular sport to bet on in Canada is football, be it NFL or CFL. But think of Canada and it isn’t the football field that springs to mind, it’s the ice hockey rink. A hugely popular sport, with ferociously loyal fans, historic rivalries and intense action, it attracts a lot of sports betting traffic. It is also a source of national pride for Canadians, as the national side has been one of the most successful teams in history in the Winter Olympics and other events. French people may be a bit bemused by the game, but spend a little time in Canada and it is hard not to get swept along by the energy it generates. Other sports are also regular betting favourites – soccer, boxing, rugby, basketball and many more.
Canadians love to bet on sports. If you’re visiting the Great White North and want to join in the fun, make sure you bear in mind the legal status of gambling and find a safe place to play.