This week in Calgary, the largest city in Canada’s Alberta province, the Canadian Gaming Summit has brought together gambling groups from across the nation to talk about one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Casino operators, suppliers, lawmakers and executives are joining together to share the latest gambling-related news, innovations, and products.
While much of the conference deals with land-based casino gambling and VLTs, internet gambling in Canada is also a very hot topic this year. A few months ago Quebec began talks of licensing internet gambling sites, and now Manitoba may soon follow suit, allowing locally-hosted internet gambling sites to offer services to Canadian players. Now, talks of bringing regulated internet gambling to the rest of Canada are making headlines.
Clarifying the current state of affairs, John FitzGerald, president of the Interactive Gaming Council, says it’s not unlawful to gamble online in Canada. Instead, he explains, the issue here is whether or not locally operated online gambling sites have the right to offer internet gambling services to Canadian players. The answer is simple: without licenses, sites operating out of Canada are illegal. Because most provinces do not yet offer online gaming licenses, most locally-hosted gambling sites are breaking Canadian gambling laws. As a result, many Canadian players have turned to foreign-hosted gambling websites.
“Canadians are spending $1 billion on online gaming,” says Paul Burns, vice-president of the Canadian Gaming Association, “and virtually all of that is going to offshore companies.” But more important than lost revenue is the lack of regulation. Canadian officials have no control over offshore gambling sites, but if local alternatives were provided, then measures could be put in place to prevent underage gambling, to allow players to set personal limits, and to offer other important oversights that foreign sites don’t always provide.