26 Dec

Interpretation of NWT Online Gambling Laws

Sifting through the legislative evidence to answer the question:
Is online gambling legal in NWT?

Is Online Gambling Legal in NWTThe Northwest Territories of Canada – NWT for short – are a unique region of the world. They make up the country’s third largest land mass, with an area of around 1.3 million km2. Yet, for all that land, it’s only inhabited by about 42,000 people, due to a harsh, subarctic climate.

The primary industries here are mining for gold and diamonds, drilling for oil, fishing and forestry. The people of NWT are a hardy bunch, accustom to long hours and worthwhile pay checks. But when it comes to entertainment, there just isn’t a whole lot to do. And being so abominably cold most of the year, a night on the town isn’t so appealing.

Like many of their fellow Canadians, NWT residents tend to enjoy gambling as an amicable pastime. They have all the modern technologies of the world, but nowhere to go to place a wager. There are no casinos in NWT. Casino industries are generally tied to high tourism areas, and NWT simply isn’t one of them, except in the winter months when visitors travel to witness the majestic beauty of the Aurora Borealis (northern lights).

The NWT’s Legislative Assembly does not regulate online gambling, either. The population simply isn’t large enough to support such an investment. Anyone with a computer or mobile device and internet access can utilize offshore online casinos, poker rooms or sports betting sites. But the real question is…

Is Online Gambling Legal in NWT?

Certain forms of gambling are authorized by NWT’s Lotteries Act. Within its definitions is a clarification of the ubiquitous term “lottery”:

lottery” includes those games of chance commonly known as bingo, nevada ticket, casino, raffle and sports draft lotteries;

But as I said, no real casinos exist here. “Casino” applies to licenced charitable events that cannot operate for more than 3 consecutive days, or more than once in a 6 month period per community.

NWT online gambling laws don’t exit. The government only scripts laws to deal with the forms of gambling it regulates. And since NWT does not regulate online gambling, it’s not really legal or illegal. Thus, to dig up more evidence for our question, we must turn to the Criminal Code of Canada.

NWT Online Gambling Laws of Canada

The Criminal Code has a lot to say about gambling. It’s teaming with definitions and prohibitions and express authorizations for provincial and territorial governments. However, despite the their verbose nature, they don’t offer a whole lot of help in answering our question. They are so out of date, they don’t specifically relate to the interactive realm.

The Criminal Code defines types of wagering as:

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)

So a “bet” applies to sports betting, horse race betting, etc.

game means a game of chance or mixed chance and skill; (jeu)

“Games” are things like casino games (i.e. slots, blackjack), bingo, lottery, etc.

Then we have Canada’s interpretation of gambling, which simply states it’s illegal. All of it. Gambling is unlawful, period. If a gambling house of any type is operating on Canadian soil, it’s a direct violation of the Criminal Code. Unless a province or territory chooses to regulate it.

As for how provinces and territories can regulate gambling, the Code says:

207 (1) …it is lawful (a) for the government of a province, either alone or in conjunction with the government of another province, to conduct and manage a lottery scheme in that province, or in that and the other province, in accordance with any law enacted by the legislature of that province;

This basically means that an area of Canada can authorize and regulate any form of gambling (online or on land) they see fit, so long as it falls within the definitions of gambling (bet or game).

What Does It All Mean

Basically, this means that any form of gambling is illegal without authorization from the province/territory. But again, there’s a jurisdictional matter. Canada law only penalizes an operator if 1) it does not have a licence to operate legally, and 2) it has a physical presence in Canada.

That second fact was proven in the BC Courts in 2001. An online gambling operator, Starnet Communications International, was prosecuted for illegal gambling. That company was based and licenced in Antigua, but the courts found them guilty based on the sole fact that it held an office in Vancouver. Its physical presence in Canada was its only downfall.

So, based on all the legal evidence, we can conclude the answer our question. Is online gambling legal in NWT? Yes, it is.  Players are not violating any Canadian or NWT online gambling laws by placing wagers with offshore gambling websites.

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 the Northwest Territories and/or Canada, please contact an attorney or local authorities.

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