22 Aug

Is it Legal to Gambling Online in NL, Canada?

Current Online Gambling Laws of Newfoundland & Labrador, CA

There was a time – a very long time – when gambling was thoroughly outlawed in Newfoundland and Labrador. Across all of Canada, in fact. You couldn’t play cards. You couldn’t shoot dice or play slot machines. In those days, you couldn’t even play bingo or buy a lottery ticket.

For most of you reading this, that might seem unfathomable. If you happen to be 45+ years old, however, you may remember those days well.

Fortunately, Canada and most of its provinces have relaxed their gambling laws a lot since then. Newfoundland and Labrador is the most recent to do so. In June 2023, locals were finally granted access to a home-grown and locally regulated iGaming portal. In today’s technological age, such confidence in the safety and security of online gambling is hard to come by.

But let’s remember that the iGaming industry has been around since the 1990s. Offshore gaming sites have been accepting Canadian deposits all this time. No doubt, countless Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have been wagering on these foreign websites for as long as they’ve been around.

Throw it all together, and it raises one very interesting question…

If the province is just now promoting a ‘legal’ iGaming option at home, what is the legal status of all those gambling sites operating from international waters?

Legit Gambling Online in NL, Canada: The Good & Bad

Online Gambling Laws of Newfoundland and LabradorThe first good news is that the province’s gambling activities are under the regulation of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC). This group provides regulation for most gambling activities across Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island; collectively, the Atlantic Provinces of Canada.

ALC runs its own internet gambling website, ALC.ca. It is open to residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. (P.E.I. has yet to jump aboard that bandwagon). The fact that it is available to players in NL confirms that online gambling is legal in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The regulator recently adopted a companion ALC mobile app as well. The app offers the same gambling options as the website via Android/iOS smartphones and tablets.

ALC Gambling Site – Legal but Limited

The bad news in all this is that the ALC presents a very limited range of internet gaming activities. ALC.ca presents players with an opportunity to purchase lottery draw tickets, instant win tickets, online casino games, instant bingo games (iBingo), and PRO•LINE sports wagers. Thanks to recent federal legislation, sports wagering options now include single-event betting.

The biggest draw is the ALC Casino that NL’ers finally gained access to in June 2023. By our count, the online casino offers 245 games. Like all casinos, the vast majority of them are slot machines. Also in the mix are about 20 table games (blackjack, roulette, baccarat, etc.) and a few video poker options.

It’s not a bad selection by any means. All of the fan favorites are there. But in comparison to offshore websites that offer thousands of titles, well… let’s just say the temptation to venture into international websites is palpable. This brings us to another piece of good news for local iGamers.

Offshore Gambling Sites Are Not Illegal

The other good news is that, because Canada’s gambling laws are so lax, it is not illegal to gamble at offshore casino websites. They are regulated by international jurisdictions, many of which mandate the same high standard of security, fairness, and player protection.

This can be a hard notion to accept when your own local government is arguing the contrary. In a statement lauding the launch of ALC’s online casino, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, the Honourable Siobhan Coady, had this to say:

“As a government, we wish to ensure the safety of residents who engage in online gaming. Atlantic Lottery’s platform provides a responsible alternative for residents who currently have access to hundreds of online gaming sites, none of which are legal or regulated.”

What NL leaders are doing is confusing the public into thinking they cannot legally gamble at any other website but ALC.ca. when they say it’s “not legal”, what they mean is that NL has not legalized it. They have also not criminalized them, which means they are not illegal, either. Just like NL does not regulate those offshore websites. The majority of them are very well regulated – just not by NL.

They say the proof is in the pudding… let’s dig into that pudding.

Online Gambling Laws of Newfoundland and Labrador

I’m not just going to relay my estimation that online gambling is legal in Newfoundland and Labrador and leave it at that. If some random person on the internet told me they found Jimmy Hoffa’s body, I’d want proof.

I’m no legal eagle, either. I don’t have a law degree. But I have done a lot of research into the matter, and there are many gaming law specialists right here in Canada who came to the same conclusion, based on the same evidence.

What it all boils down to is that just because something is not legal does not make it illegal. It is only illegal if it is prohibited by law. And neither the provincial nor federal gambling laws of Newfoundland and Labrador or Canada prohibit online gambling with offshore websites. Next up, we’ll show you what the law says about gambling.

Gambling & the Criminal Code of Canada

First things first, gambling is not legalized or outlawed on a federal level. Individual provinces and territories are responsible for managing all gambling regulations. The Criminal Code merely defines gambling, and how those jurisdictions may authorize it.

It’s also worth noting that only unregulated gambling activities that take place physically within Canada are considered illegal, punishable offences. With that in mind, we’ll look at a portion of Section 202, which describes the illegal promotion of gambling in Canada.

202 (1) Everyone commits an offence who…Meaning
(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;It is illegal for any person or business in Canada to provide or help provide online gambling services without a licence from a provincial regulator. International operators have never been subject to this law unless they have a physical presence in Canada.
(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 immaterialIt is illegal to promote online gambling services to Canadians. So long as an international online casino’s services and promotions are not geared towards Canada specifically, there’s no law being broken by accepting Canadian players, or providing them the same services and promotions as players from other regions.

Provincial Online Gambling Authorized

Next up is how Canadian provinces can handle online gambling regulation. According to Section 207 of the Criminal Code…

207 (1) …it is lawfulMeaning
(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;The provinces and territories of Canada, at their discretion, may authorize and regulate an online gambling market. They may also work in tandem with other provinces/territories to share an online gambling market, as the Atlantic Provinces have done through ALC.

What Does NL Law Say About Gambling?

NL doesn’t say much at all about gambling activities, except for defining the types of ‘lotteries and gaming‘ available. There are those conducted by the ALC, which raise money for the government. Then there are those conducted by charitable organizations, raising money for their individual charities. Finally, there are organizations licenced by the NL government to offer games of chance.

With no local casinos, ALC is the only licenced operator of casino games and sports betting in the province. According to a bulletin from the Department of Digital Government and Service NL explicating the rules of gambling regulation:

“The authority for charitable gaming and lottery licensing in Newfoundland and Labrador is the Lottery Licensing Regulations, which are administered by the Consumer Affairs Division (CAD) in Digital Government and Service NL (DGSNL)… Conducting, managing or participating in a lottery that is not licensed under these regulations is in violation of the Criminal Code of Canada and subject to the applicable penalties.”

We can gather two very important pieces of information from this. 1) NL’s gaming regulations apply to licenced operations and charitable organizations only. 2) Everything else (i.e. an unlicenced operation) falls under the federal laws of the Criminal Code of Canada.

For the legalities of gambling at international online casinos, which are not authorized, licenced, or regulated by NL, we must refer back to the Criminal Code. 

What Does it All Mean?

When you put it all together, it’s pretty clear that there’s nothing illegal about betting over the internet. The online gambling laws of Newfoundland and Labrador provide for local iGaming activities. The Criminal Code of Canada does not prohibit online gambling with any offshore operator, provided it does not have a physical presence or direct advertising in Canada.

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 Newfoundland and Labrador, and/or Canada, please contact an attorney or local authorities.

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