A Definition of Gambling as Pertaining to Canadian Law

A Definition of Gambling as Pertaining to Canadian Law

Gambling is described as the betting of a trade-able commodity on the fundamentally uncertain result of an event, whether this outcome is to be determined by chance, skill, a combination of chance and skill, or a contest.

Gambling in Canada’s History

Canada has a long history of gambling, with experts estimating that the native tribes partook in recreational betting using sticks, stones and other valued items as far back as 6000BC. Many of these traditional games are now only remembered as cultural history, but John Cabot’s voyage in 1497 introduced European games and earmarked the beginning of Canada’s gambling records.

Many of the traditional games are now only remembered as cultural history, and the European card games poker and blackjack, as well as the dice games craps and barbotte, became noticeably more popular. Faro, another card game, also enjoyed popularity during the Klondike Gold Rush, and with the advent of modern technology, slots and online gaming has begun to take the helm.

Canadian Gambling Law

Just as the nature of gambling in Canada (and indeed the world) has evolved, so have the great nation’s gambling laws.

Religious, martial and moral opinions carried over from Europe with the settlers, and gambling was strictly regulated but tolerated, although a 14th Century decree by King Richard III of England had banned all dice games. In 1892, the Canadian Criminal Code was first enacted, continuing to follow the English common law and putting a ban on all gambling activity.

However, raffles, bingo and similar games had crept back into acceptable use by 1900, albeit within limitations, and in 1910 an amendment to the Canadian Criminal Code allowed for pari-muteul betting. From “Paris mutuel”, this form of gambling (involving the increasingly popular sport of horse racing) originated in France as their official gaming form, and stipulates that the winners divide the losers’ stakes. Additionally, a cut of the winnings goes to the track, the horsemen and the state.

The occasional game of chance that had become acceptable by 1900 were legalised in the 1910 amendment of the Canadian Criminal Code, with the provision that they were limited to agricultural fairs, exhibitions, and charitable or religious fund-raising events.

These laws concerning the gambling trade in Canada remained little changed over the next sixty years, although there were occasional amendments at irregular intervals. In 1970, the Criminal Code allowed for each province to license and regulate gambling, with few exceptions.

Illegal Gambling and the Phenomenon of Online Gambling

Most notable of these is betting on individual sports, which remains the most popular illegal gambling activity by far and which appear to have experienced little or no decline since the liberalisation of gambling activities. Bookmakers are able to generate larger profits due to the lack of taxation, but is generally tolerated in Canada – unlike other criminal activity.

While Canada has its otherwise strict land-based gambling laws, the government was as unprepared as any other in the world for the advent of online gambling sites in the 1990s.

True to form, this great nation has been pro-active in its attempts to legalise and regulate the new phenomenon, and in 1999 the Kahnawake Gaming Commission was launched for this very purpose.