Canadians love to have a wager – in fact, you could say that it is a national pastime, with at least six out of ten citizens saying they spend money on gambling every month. The average spend is a modest $6.75, and slightly more men than women participate in this leisure activity. It is an important industry for the country's economy, and there has been a substantial shift from land-based to online casinos and sports betting sites. Gambling apps for mobile devices are also incredibly popular. The annual revenue contribution from the industry was estimated at $3.1 billion in 2023.
While punters wager for fun and the hope that they might cash in on an enormous jackpot, the companies behind the platforms are serious businesses. The passage of Bill C-218 into law in August 2021 allowed online casinos and single sports wagering to be officially allowed in Canada. Up until then, anyone who fancied an online flutter had to risk going to an unregulated offshore casino and had no guarantees that the sites they played on were safe or would ever pay up in the event of a win. Canada's provinces are self-governing regarding gambling laws, so each took a different approach to implementing its market.
Ontario launched itself full throttle into commercial online gambling and has pioneered a fully regulated, legalized gambling market. The virtual doors opened on April 4th, 2022, and there are now more than 70 regulated offline and online casinos in Ontario operating under the auspices of iGaming Ontario. Playing at regulated sites means that customers can be sure of the following:-
- Any money deposited is protected
- Winnings will be paid out
- The site has customer services that can be contacted if anything goes wrong
- Your personal and financial information and data are held securely
- The site plays by the rules and offers fair and competitive odds and chances of winning
- The operators have signed up to responsible gambling guidelines and provide resources that allow players to keep the gambling fun
- There is a genuine, reputable business behind the site
- You have the regulator 'on your side' if things go wrong.
Having a legalized, regulated market is beneficial to those residing in Ontario. As forty percent of the country's population is here, and it is home to many of the top sports teams, what happens in Ontario significantly affects Canada as a whole. However, it is not just players who have benefited from Ontario's pioneering stance. A recent iGaming Ontario report also showed significant wins for the provincial coffers. The 920,00 active player accounts have seen $27.6 billion spent on wagers. Commercial casinos only operate by making profits, and taxes are taken on those profits. By 2032, it is estimated that the industry will contribute $2.1 billion annually to government revenue.
Research by Deloitte suggests that while gambling is a fun leisure activity, it also creates high-paying and skilled jobs in Ontario. In the first year of operation, the industry created 12,000 positions and contributed over $900 million in labour income. The province's Attorney General said,
"Over the past year, Ontario's iGaming market has been internationally recognized for creating a safe, legal and competitive landscape while supporting the province's economy and displacing the existing unregulated market. By driving innovation, creating exciting new opportunities for workers and providing protection and choice for players, this made-in-Ontario market will remain a global leader in this sector."
So that was a big thumbs up from the top of the pile, and the report thinks the first year is just the tip of the iceberg. It is expected the industry could create 22,000 full-time jobs across the province.
The great news is that while the operators must pay taxes, punters lucky enough to win at the casino are not liable for taxation. Canada's Income Tax Act states money earned by winning at gambling is not seen as part of your income and is, therefore, not subject to taxation. If you really fancy yourself at the games tables and decide to become a pro poker player, then your status would change. Professional gamblers whose income derides from wagering would, of course, be subject to income tax.
Ontario has gone out of its way to embrace the opportunities of online gambling. While some provinces have 'reinvented the wheel' and set up bespoke gambling sites, Ontario embraced what had already been tried and tested in other countries. However, Ontarians do not have to accept bland, homogenous online casinos. All the operators have new and exciting games alongside award-winning global titles and much-loved favourites. You can also discover exclusive games, and every casino has its own house style and feel.
Sometimes, it can feel as though there is too much choice. After all, how is anyone supposed to know which online casino to play at? While you can rest assured they are all well-regulated, players must also find sites that best suit their playing style. This is why it is always worth looking at casino comparison sites as they drill down into what is good, bad and (hopefully not) ugly about each place.
As so many Canadians love to play online casinos, you might just feel like asking a friend for a recommendation. However, if they are into online slots and you like to play blackjack or roulette, you may find their choices do not reflect yours. Whatever type of games you enjoy, Ontario's pioneering stance in online casinos means players can find just what they are looking for.
Working with well-established, international operators means that players in Ontario can access games by top-end game makers and software providers. Any gambling innovations on a global scale are available for players in the province. Seeming wizardry is making live-dealer games one of the sector's hottest crazes. Games can be beamed from production studios anywhere in the world, and people sitting in their Canadian homes can find themselves at the heart of an online casino, gambling alongside real players.
Sometimes, we associate pioneers with a gold rush or hunt for treasure. Ontario's online casino scene is a veritable treasure hunt, too!