Online Gambling Laws in Alberta, Canada: Unraveling the legality of iGaming in the Wild Rose Country
The gaming laws of Alberta, Canada are quite lengthy. The province has gone to great effort to layout verbose terminology mandating exactly how any gambling business may or may not conduct business. However, those laws apply specifically to gambling operators that are licenced and regulated by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC).
The AGLC does not permit online gambling activities in Alberta. Therefore, AGLC does not provide licences for any online gambling activities within, or outside, the province. And since ALGC regulations apply only to licenced operators, online casinos regulated offshore are not subject to those laws.
International operators are, however, subject to the Criminal Code of Canada. So, to determine the legality of gambling at offshore websites, we turn to federal laws for eligibility.
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers, and are not qualified or attempting to offer legal advice. The following is our personal interpretation of current legislation. For precise clarification of the laws in Alberta and/or Canada, please contact an attorney or local authorities.
Applicable Online Gambling Laws in Alberta
The following are experts from the Criminal Code of Canada, Part VII, relating to Disorderly Houses, Gaming and Betting. No text has been altered, although we have omitted several paragraphs that do not apply to online gambling. We’ll start with Section 197, dealing with definitions.
Criminal Code of Canada
Disorderly Houses, Gaming and Betting
|197 (1) In this Part,
|Bet means a bet that is placed on any contingency or event that is to take place in or out of Canada, and without restricting the generality of the foregoing, includes a bet that is placed on any contingency relating to a horse-race, fight, match or sporting event that is to take place in or out of Canada; (pari)
||A bet applies to sports betting, horse race betting and other matches or contests that involve athletic skill and ability.
|Game means a game of chance or mixed chance and skill; (jeu)
||A game applies to all forms of casino gambling (slots, blackjack, wheel games, video poker, etc.) with predetermined odds and probabilities that are based entirely or partly on chance, not skill.
|Gaming equipment means anything that is or may be used for the purpose of playing games or for betting; (matériel de jeu)
||This could apply to a computer used to conduct online gambling.
Betting, pool-selling, book-making, etc.
|202 (1) Every one commits an offence who
|(e) engages in book-making or pool-selling, or in the business or occupation of betting, or makes any agreement for the purchase or sale of betting or gaming privileges, or for the purchase or sale of information that is intended to assist in book-making, pool-selling or betting;
||Applies to a person or business conducting a bet that is not legally regulated by in the province in which it takes place. There is no mention of game in this paragraph, therefore casino gambling does not apply.
|(f) prints, provides or offers to print or provide information intended for use in connection with book-making, pool-selling or betting on any horse-race, fight, game or sport, whether or not it takes place in or outside Canada or has or has not taken place;
||Again, no mention of game (i.e. casino gambling) in this paragraph; applies only to betting.
|(g) imports or brings into Canada any information or writing that is intended or is likely to promote or be of use in gambling, book-making, pool-selling or betting on a horse-race, fight, game or sport, and where this paragraph applies it is immaterial
||The promotion of betting and/or gaming is illegal unless otherwise permitted by the regulations of a particular province. It is illegal for international gambling websites to specifically promote services in Alberta, Canada. The process of accepting wagers on games is not relevant here.
|(h) advertises, prints, publishes, exhibits, posts up, or otherwise gives notice of any offer, invitation or inducement to bet on, to guess or to foretell the result of a contest, or a result of or contingency relating to any contest;
(2) Every one who commits an offence under this section is guilty of an indictable offence and liable
|(a) for a first offence, to imprisonment for not more than two years;
||Up to 2yrs in jail for first offence
|(b) for a second offence, to imprisonment for not more than two years and not less than fourteen days; and
||2wks-2yrs in jail for second offence
|(c) for each subsequent offence, to imprisonment for not more than two years and not less than three months.
||3mos-2yrs in jail for 3+ offences
What Does It All Mean?
Is online gambling explicitly legal or illegal in Alberta, Canada? When you put it all together, it doesn’t paint a perfectly clear picture. However, we can break it down to make a few apparent determinations.
- Alberta could interpret participation in sports betting or pari-mutuel betting over the internet as an illegal activity.
- Participating in online casino gambling, or any other game of chance (with or without combined skill) in Alberta is not illegal, so long as the operator does not have a physical presence (local offices) anywhere in Canadian.
- Any online betting or gaming operator who specifically advertises their services to Canadians could be guilty of an offence. However, this applies only to the operator, not players who choose to use those services.
- It is illegal for offshore gambling websites to promote services in Canada. It is not explicitly illegal to accept deposits from, process gaming wagers for, or cashout winnings to players in Alberta, Canada.
Regulated Online Gambling In Alberta?
Alberta does not currently provide any regulation of online gambling services. The province was considering iGaming regulation in late 2015 as a way to diversify revenue streams. The government did not act on it at that time, and has held no serious debates on the issue since.
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