Provincial Lottery

Most legal gambling in Canada is conducted under the auspices of the lottery commissions in the individual provinces.  The major exception is the Kahnawake Gaming Commission with is the gaming arm of the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory.  A 1985 change to the Criminal Code of the country gave virtually all power to regulating gambling to the provinces.   Each province can set their own gaming regulations and offer any betting option that is permitted by Federal law.

Every province allows ticketed lotteries and horse racing (though not every province has live horse racing at this point).  There are two national lottery games in Canada similar to Powerball in the United States—these are Lotto 649 and Lotto Max.  These games are available throughout Canada and are supplemented by provincial lottery games.  The specific nature of these games can vary widely and change from time to time just like their counterparts at the state level in the USA.

In addition to the traditional ticket based lotteries, most Canadian provinces offer video lottery terminals (VLTs).  VLTs are ubiquitous throughout the country and are located in businesses that don’t serve minors such as bars and nightclubs.  The only provinces that currently don’t allow VLTs are Ontario and British Columbia.  In some ways, the robust online offerings of these two province make VLTs somewhat redundant.  That being said, Ontario is currently considering legislation to authorize VLTs throughout the province.

Provincial gaming laws make a distinction between VLTs and slot machines—though at first glance they appear very similar.  Slot machines are available in most jurisdictions—offered at casinos and race tracks—with the exception of Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and New Brunswick.  These are also the only three provinces that prohibit land based casinos.  Land based casinos are found throughout Canada, in some cases bearing well-known brand names such as Caesars or Boomtown.  Under Federal law, provinces are able to outsource management of gaming operations to third party companies.

Sports betting is available throughout Canada and administered by the provincial lottery commissions.  There is a major caveat, however, in that single game sports betting is not allowed by Federal law.  Sports bettors are required to wager on ‘multiple events’.   This includes parlay card type wagers but in recent years operators have begun to get more creative.  In fact, many of the wagers they offer push the limit of the ‘multiple events’ requirement.   The ‘single’ bets that are offered include futures propositions such as betting on the winner of the Stanley Cup or NBA Championship.  The rationale is that multiple games are required for teams to win a title, thus satisfying the letter of the law if not the intent.  Other bets include correct score and totals wagers—justified with the rationale that the player has to predict the result for both teams, thus satisfying the ‘multiple events’ proviso.

The quality and extent of the provincial lottery commission’s online offerings vary widely.  British Columbia and Ontario have impressive online offerings that include lottery games, sports betting, poker, bingo, keno and casino games.  The British Columbia lottery’s website ( also has arrangements with Manitoba to provide online gaming services to their residents.  The other provinces are well behind the curve with their online offerings.  They typically provide betting information and winning lottery numbers but transactions must be made at retail locations or VLTs.