Online casinos have always been a grey area when it comes to its legality. CBC News examined gambling laws in order to establish just how grey online gambling is. In that article we focus on online gambling in Canada. Would a group of Canadian friends playing a game of poker in their living room expect SWAT to come crashing through the door? While the short answer is a simple no, the long answer is a little more complicated. The laws governing gambling are taking a little longer to catch up with the connected world of online gambling. Canadian gambling laws are under the provincial jurisdiction. As such, not much attention is given to the offshore gambling sites. There are thousands of gambling sites based in places such as Cyprus, Isle of Man and Curacao. The reason for most of the sites being based in such places is as a result of lax gambling rules and governments not minding the tax revenue from these gambling sites.

Offshore casinos - take care!

There are huge differences when it comes to the country that regulates the operator. While Curacao is known for a license that does not have too many legal guidelines, license from EU country Malta has a good reputation. Thus internet casinos with regulation by Malta government are a lot more user friendly and players are safe in casinos with a EU license. There have been a lot of offshore casino from that completely disappeared from one day to another. And with the casino the money from its members...

According to Michael Lipton who is a lawyer and a gaming law expert in Toronto, the best way to approach such an issue is examining the legality of the offshore gaming sites, which accept bets originating from Canada and understanding the Canadian gaming laws. According to him, being a gambler in Canada is not an offence even if one is betting on an offshore site. The tricky part of it all is the legality of accepting bets originating from Canada. Before the internet became a platform for gambling, provinces had an easier time making and enforcing gambling rules. It all boils down to the fact that any lawful uncertainty is determined by whether the Criminal Code of that particular province prevents offshore sites from doing business in Canada.

Physical local casinos in Canada

There is also the issue about offshore sites not having physical presence in Canada. Lipton asserts that it does not matter whether an offshore site has physical presence in Canada or not. If it is prohibited from operating there then that company is liable to criminal prosecution if it goes ahead and operates in Canada. The best way one can answer whether online gambling is legal or illegal is when one such site will have its day in court. Lipton says that there are also other issues such as copyright protection. If an offshore gambling site does business in Canada, advertises or enters into contracts knowingly accepting bets from Canada, then that company is liable for criminal prosecution in the Canadian courts.