The government of Manitoba may soon join its neighbors by offering internet gambling in Canada. The Manitoba Lotteries Minister Steve Ashton says that no official decision has been made, but several possibilities are being considered. Manitoba may choose to create and run its own online gambling site, or might simply partner with other Canadian provinces to produce a common site that would service much of Canada.
“There will probably be a decision sometime this year,” Ashton said. “Clearly this is on the agenda. We’re going to look at it from all angles.”
There are several reasons Manitoba would want to consider the legalization of online gambling. Their primary incentive seems to be a desire to protect Canadians who are already gambling on the internet by signing up with foreign-hosted internet gaming websites. Because these sites lie far outside the Canadian government’s jurisdiction, they cannot be regulated. Locally hosted sites, on the other hand, can be overseen by local gaming authorities, who could provide services like age checks, transfer limits, and secure payment options.
Manatoba also stands to benefit financially by legalizing online gambling sites in Canada. By setting up locally-operated internet gambling sites, Manitoba would be able to compete with offshore operators, but would also be able to tax winnings, bringing in tremendous revenue.
Online gambling in Canada is not new. British Colombia has been offering internet gambling for almost five years now, and Quebec recently approved plans for an internet lottery system, with poker and sports betting on its way in just a few months.
Not everyone is convinced that legal internet gambling in Manitoba is a good idea. John Borody, CEO of the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, worries that official internet gambling may give rise to more addicts. Proponents respond by pointing out the fact that official Canadian online casinos would be locally regulated, and that the issue is solvable. A final decision will likely be made by the end of the year.