iGaming Habits: Canada vs. The UK

Online gambling is a hugely popular international pastime, but many factors contribute to quite dramatic differences in the trends of individual countries. The history of a nation, its gambling legislature and the culture of gaming all play pivotal roles in how the population participates.

Technologically advanced regions are more likely to take their betting practices to the internet, and the rise in popularity of online slots in the Western world is indicative of this. Even countries with interconnected pasts and presents, like Canada and the United Kingdom that share a monarch, have interesting distinctions in their iGaming habits.

The UK

Current progressive gambling laws in the UK have led it to become the largest market in Europe. Although Britain has a long gaming history, its legislation was brought up to date in 2005 with the introduction of the UK Gaming Commission (UKGC), which licenses and regulates the industry.

Any money won at land based or online casinos in the UK is tax free. This has helped gambling revenue to equate to approximately £14 billion yearly, of which the government generates roughly £3 billion in tax.

Almost 50% of sports betting in the UK is dominated by football, the national sport. Online casinos, betting and the National Lottery are the three biggest sectors in the UK gambling market, each with around a 20% share.

The EU

Now officially not an EU member state, much of the UK’s legislation around gaming still reflects EU directives. It will take time for any UK independent changes to be codified into law.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland was not included in the 2005 update to gambling laws so still operates under the 1985 Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements Order. The laws are outdated and have not kept up with current technologies and changes. An amendment to the bill is currently under review.


Following the 2014 independence referendum which resulted in 55% being in favour of remaining part of the United Kingdom, The Scotland Act of 2016 was passed. This gave Scotland increased autonomy over laws that would affect them, that were previously decided only in Westminster.

One such change was to regulate more stringently the use of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). The rest of the UK followed Scotland’s lead in this regard and in 2019 passed a similar act that reduced the maximum FOBT bet that could be placed.


The Icelandic Vikings who colonised Greenland were the first Europeans to reach Canadian shores. Their 1,000 year old settlement in Labrador is now a World Heritage Site.

But Canada in its modern form is just a fraction more than 150 years old. The Dominion of Canada doesn’t have the same extensive background to draw from but does not have several hundred year old gaming traditions to consider, either.

The majority of European settlers hailed from France, England and Scotland and that’s where the initial influence and conventions originate, but traditions unique to the country have developed since.

Until 1985 most forms of gambling were illegal, before provinces and territories were granted autonomy to legislate individually. Gambling revenue now stands at around C$14 billion annually.

Canada has only recently legalised single game sports betting. Previously, only parlay bets were permitted – bets which spanned multiple games.

Gambling laws in Canada’s provinces and territories

Alberta boasts 25 land based casinos and since the recent update to the law sports betting, including single game bets can be placed.

15 brick and mortar casinos and one sports betting site is available in BC.

All gaming activities, both online and offline are regulated by The Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba.

  • Newfoundland and Labrador

Land based casinos are not permitted but sports betting is regulated via the ProLine service, where gamers can place bets of up to C$250 per day.

There is only one casino in New Brunswick and one official gambling site but New Brunswick inhabitants can visit offshore based online casinos.

No physical or online casinos currently exist in the Northwest Territories.

Two government run casinos and one sports betting site.

Ontario has relaxed gambling laws with few restrictions. There are 24 casinos within the province.

Casinos are permitted but currently none exist.

One of the more liberal provinces, there are nine land casinos and one official website – although offshore sites are available.

The other province that does not allow online or land based casinos to be based there.

Only temporary casino licenses are granted for venues to operate for a maximum of three days at a time.

Key differences and similarities between UK and Canada gambling:

One distinct difference between the two countries are the traditions of the Native population – stick and dice games and horse racing have a longstanding relationship with betting. Currently 15 of Canada’s casinos are operated by indigenous peoples.

Other differences:

  • Gambling laws concerning native populations in Canada
  • Games with long traditions unique to each country: bingo, indigenous games, national sports.
  • Canada’s gambling revenue is roughly 60% that of the UK’s when adjusted by currency. However, despite Canada’s size, its population is only 60% of the UK’s and hence, per capita this figure is similar.
  • Canada has only recently (2021) legalised single game sports betting.
  • There are no government run sports betting or casino based websites in the UK, instead they are licensed by the UKGC. Most of Canada’s provinces operate their own official sites.

Key similarities:

  • Both countries have strong sporting traditions. The UK with football and horse racing, and Canada with lacrosse and ice hockey. There are sizeable sports betting markets surrounding these sports.
  • Winnings from gambling in both countries are not taxed.
  • Both states have some variances in gambling laws and hence participation across their respective constituent countries, and provinces and territories.
  • Online casinos have seen a sharp upturn in popularity in the last decade in both countries.

While the UK established itself as a forerunner in the modern gambling landscape, Canada has quickly made up ground. Both countries demonstrate a robust iGaming industry, which is allowed to develop while also being carefully regulated.

Source: Einnews

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