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Is sports betting legal in Canada?

Yes, sports betting is legal in Canada. In August 2021, Canadian lawmakers amended the nation’s criminal code via bill C-218 to allow single-game sports betting.

The key to understanding the law is that it did not make sports betting legal throughout Canada. Similar to when the US Supreme Court struck down the nation’s federal ban in 2018, this legislation allows provinces to decide individually whether they want to allow sports wagering and in what form.

What’s next for sports betting in Canada?

What’s next for Canadian sports betting depends largely on the individual provinces. While there have been minor developments in Alberta sports betting and Saskatchewan, most of the attention is on Ontario, the first province to allow commercial online sportsbooks. 

Canada’s most populous province has been the test case for a competitive sports betting market that other provinces like British Columbia and Alberta could eventually emulate if they expand their current systems.

What’s happening in Canadian sports betting right now

Top sportsbooks in Canada

A number of companies either have shown interest in offering sports betting in Canada or are already doing so with the intention of expanding as more provinces open up. Here are the top sportsbooks offering online sports betting promos in Canada right now. All are available only in Ontario:

1. BetRivers Sportsbook

The BetRivers Sportsbook app is easy to navigate, but the website can be busy and tough to use at times. The book has a good menu of betting options, making the deposit process easy. 

2. BetMGM Sportsbook

Another top-tier online betting platform in the US, BetMGM Sportsbook offers a solid selection of sports on which to bet and high ratings from consumers.

3. DraftKings Sportsbook

DraftKings Sportsbook is not only one of the more visually appealing apps, but it offers everything a sports bettor could want, including a deep menu of betting options, solid odds, and innovative features. Live betting is a calling card for this app, as are betting pools that allow users to compete with friends in small tournament-style competitions.  

4. Bet365

Bet365 is a top option for bettors who enjoy live betting, competitive odds, and an easy-to-use app. The available betting markets at bet365 are as extensive as you will find, including some exotic options such as darts, lacrosse, and esports.

5. Sports Interaction

Sports Interaction has marketed itself as “Canada’s Homegrown Sportsbook,” and has leaned into promoting sports such as NHL hockey that are particularly popular in Canada. The app is intuitive and easy on the eyes, offering features like live betting and same-game parlays. However, the selection of betting markets is not as comprehensive as some competitors.

Recent Canadian sports betting news

Canada sports betting law

In August 2021, Canadian lawmakers repealed a law that prevented provinces from allowing single-game sports wagering. Every province launched some retail sports betting product within months of the new legal environment, and many added a complementary online option.

Furthermore, Ontario is now the first province with a commercially competitive online market. The open season for Ontario sports betting began in April 2022. Multiple sportsbooks have gone live, with BetMGM and Caesars the first of many available for play inside provincial borders, from Windsor to Fort Severn.

Previously, only parlay-style wagering was available from provincial lotteries. One example is ProLine in Ontario.

The Canadian Gaming Association lobbied for over a decade to alter the country’s sports betting law. The effort finally gained momentum when the US market began to open in 2018.

What C-218 means for Canadian sports betting

Despite its broad effect on gambling in Canada, C-218 is a short and direct piece of legislation.

According to the official summary, C-218 “amends paragraph 207(4)‍(b) of the Criminal Code to make it lawful for the government of a province, or a person or entity licensed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council of that province, to conduct and manage a lottery scheme in the province that involves betting on a race (other than a horse race) or fight, or on a single sport event or athletic contest.”

In other words, each provincial government is able to manage its own sports betting rules and regulations, should it choose to do so. Almost any sport is viable fodder for wagering. The only exception is horse racing, which is separate and falls under its own set of regulations.

The law’s chief effect is to remove the prohibition on single-game wagering in Canada. Canadians were only able to bet on parlays available from provincial lotteries up to that point. Because the law’s language is so broad, it applies to both retail and online sports betting. In theory, a provincial government could decline to allow sports betting to proceed, but none have done so.

Most importantly, the law places sports betting firmly under the control of provincial governments. It is likely that some areas of Canada will prefer to keep their sportsbook operations “in-house” for the foreseeable future. However, Ontario chose to go a different direction and opened its market. Other provinces, such as Alberta, have also indicated they might pursue a more competitive market.

Legal sports betting options by province

There are multiple legal betting options in Canada. Each province has its own sports betting products available through provincial lottery retailers and online. Below is a list of the options that Canadians have at their disposal, but bear in mind that this list is fluid and will change as provincial governments apply their own approaches.

Ontario sports betting

Ontario is the sports betting leader for Canada. The province has more than 38% of Canada’s population and would be the fifth-largest US state, in front of Pennsylvania.

Ontario Lottery and Gaming launched ProLine+ on Aug. 27, 2021, allowing residents to wager on single events. In addition, the province opened its market to outside companies like Caesars and BetMGM. The new Ontario sports betting market launched in 2022.

Ontario also borders Michigan in the US. Michigan sports betting is available both online and at retail locations. Some of those same books in Michigan have launched in Ontario, too.

Toronto, the largest city in Ontario, has four significant professional teams in American sports leagues:

British Columbia sports betting

British Columbia’s lottery encouraged federal legislators to approve C-218 and bring legal single-game sports betting to Canada.

According to the British Columbia Lottery Corp.:

“BCLC expects single-event sports betting would generate an estimated $125 million to $175 million in additional revenue through online and land-based opportunities.”

The BCLC launched an expanded product as soon as it was able to, in August 2021. Professional sports teams in British Columbia include a couple in major sports leagues:

Overview of legal gambling in Canada

Here is a quick look at some key features of legal gambling in Canada:

CasinosCasinos are located in almost every province. Some are operated by First Nations while others are operated by large Canadian gambling companies like Great Canadian Gaming and Gateway Casinos and Entertainment. The largest casino in Canada is located in Quebec: Casino de Montreal.
Fantasy sportsDaily fantasy sports sites are legal in Canada with the biggest operators accepting players in the provinces.
Horse racingHorse racing, and betting on horse racing, are both legal in Canada. The Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency oversees the industry.
LotteryFive provincial lottery commissions oversee various lottery games, both online and in person. Lottery games include online casino play in some provinces as well as traditional lottery games like Lotto Max and keno.
Sports bettingProvincial lotteries operated parlay online betting sites before 2021. Now, each province can expand their betting options if they choose. Most have done so.

Note that a massive gray market offers sports betting to Canadians at offshore sportsbooks. These offshore books don’t pay taxes and aren’t regulated at the provincial or federal level. Additionally, regulators have expressed the potential to crack down on these books after launching legal options.

Sports bettors make an additional gamble whenever they bet at these offshore sites, as there’s no guarantee of payment for winning bets. Some offshore sportsbooks have closed their operations without warning and without returning customer funds.

Canada vs. US sports betting

The sports betting markets in Canada and the United States are quickly becoming mirror images.

To date, more than 80% of all states have pursued some form of legislation for legal sports betting. US sports betting could become enormous in a short time as the adoption of mobile wagering increases.

For example, New Jersey alone saw more than $6 billion wagered in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption of sports. New York saw betting approach nearly $2 billion in its first month of service in January 2022.

Canada is still in the process of expanding its sports betting profile. Like the US, the Canadian government has placed the decision about sports betting with its regional governments in the provinces. With one exception, no province in Canada has allowed commercial sportsbooks to launch legally and has preferred to keep sports betting with their respective provincial lotteries.

The lone exception is Ontario. In April 2022, Ontarians gained the ability to play on a variety of sportsbook apps, such as theScore Bet, BetMGM, Caesars and PointsBet. For all intents and purposes, Ontario now more closely resembles many states in terms of its treatment of sports betting.

A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers outlined the economic outlook for Canadian sports betting. Within two years of legalization, PwC estimates the market could reach up to $2.4 billion. Similarly, a Deloitte Canada report recently estimated Canadians could grow their legal sports betting market to $28 billion within just five years.

Popular sports to wager on in Canada

You cannot talk about popular sports in Canada without mentioning hockey. There are seven National Hockey League teams based in Canada:

With that many teams, hockey gets its fair share of the legal Canadian sports betting market. Like in the US, though, football will likely see the most bets of any sport.

Canada has the Canadian Football League, but the National Football League is also popular.

Other leagues should receive some betting love, as well. Toronto is the home to the only Canadian franchises in MLB and the NBA.

Canadian sports betting timeline

2024: According to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, illegal betting sites are being used to launder money. The report underscores the importance of using a legal sports betting site.

The Alberta government uses $1 million to review the province’s online gambling sector and explore possible expansion.

2023: Alberta’s sole sports betting operator, PlayAlberta, announces BtoBet as its new sportsbook odds provider.

2022: Ontario becomes the first Canadian province to allow external online sportsbooks to do business inside Canada. Names like theScore Bet, PointsBet, Caesars, and BetMGM are now available to Ontarians and visitors to the province. DraftKings follows with its online sportsbook and casino in May. In June, the NFL expands its partnership with FanDuel Sportsbook to include Canada.

2021: Parliament passes C-218 to potentially create a robust Canadian sports betting market. Single-event sports betting is legal as of Aug. 27. Seven provincial lotteries launch sports betting products almost immediately, and the rest follow by the end of the year.

2020: MP Kevin Waugh launches the third effort to end the ban on single-game sports betting in Canada. C-218 receives significant support from multiple parties and eventually ends up as a government bill in November.

2016: Masse’s second attempt to end the single-game ban fails.

2013: MP Brian Masse launches the first attempt to end the ban on single-game sports betting in Canada, but it fails.

Canada sports betting FAQ

Where can I bet on sports in Canada?

For the most part, you can legally bet on sports anywhere in Canada. Each provincial lottery has unveiled a retail sports betting product, and almost all of them have also launched an online companion. You can also try one of the many lottery retailers in each province if you prefer to bet in person.
The only holdout on the online side is Saskatchewan, and its officials have already indicated they are planning to allow online betting sometime in mid-2022.

Can I bet on my phone in Canada?

Yes, unless you live in Saskatchewan. Each provincial lottery offers an online sports betting option, and Saskatchewan will have one itself in mid-2022. Ontarians now have the biggest selection of online books at their disposal, since commercial sportsbooks debuted there in April.

What is the legal age for betting online in Canada?

The legal age for sports betting in Canada varies on a provincial level. For the most part, customers must be 19 or older in order to wager. However, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec do allow betting from 18-year-olds.

Can I play daily fantasy sports in Canada?

Yes, daily fantasy sports contests are legal in Canada. The industry’s biggest names, DraftKings and FanDuel, both operate in much of the country, though not for DFS in Ontario.

Is DraftKings legal in Canada?

As a fantasy sports operator, yes. As a sportsbook, it is just legal in Ontario so far. However, DraftKings DFS stopped accepting players in Ontario in April 2022.

Is horse betting legal in Canada?

Yes, horse racing and betting on horse racing are legal in every province of Canada. The Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency regulates and supervises betting on horse racing at the federal level.