Gambling is a subject that can be controversial depending on the region or the nation. Large proportions of Canadians are proud gamblers, and continue to lobby the government to adapt a liberalized approach to online gambling and single game sportsbetting. The Canadian position is in sharp contrast to the US, where the division between players and politicians is a deep rift.
The North American internet betting market is routinely described by online casino operators as the largest untapped sector in the industry. Operators support legislation that would authorize fully regulated online gambling in the US, and already provide their services in the more accepting Canadian market.
Canada’s political leaders took an interesting approach in their position towards online gambling. The federal government prohibited Canadian based online casinos from operating within the country, with the exception of casinos based in First Nations jurisdictions.
However, the government allows international online gambling sites to service Canadian players with very little restrictions. The easy to use international sites were welcomed by Canadian gamblers, who became very contented with the convenience of betting from home. As players became more comfortable with betting online, they increased the amount they wagered.
The amount of money spent on these sites caught the eye of many provincial governments in Canada, who recognized millions of dollars were leaving the Canadian economy. British Columbia became the first province to launch its own regulated online gambling site called PlayNow.com in 2010 to limit the amount of money leaving provincial borders. The PlayNow casino was later licensed to the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation in early 2013.
Quebec also went live with its own casino in 2010, and the Ontario government announced that PlayOLG.ca will be available to Ontarian gamblers before the end of 2013. There are still some provinces, particularly in the Maritimes opposed to legalizing online gambling. But many pundits believe the day is coming when Canada will authorize a nationally regulated internet betting environment.
The US is a different case, where the federal government by and large is strictly opposed to legalized online gambling. A federal provision in 2006 banned all forms of internet gambling, which formed the legally trying, and highly publicized Black Friday online poker scandal in 2011.
Taking the lead from their Canadian provincial counterparts, many US states recognized the economic vitality of online gambling. Nevada was the first state to open fully licensed online poker sites, while Delaware and New Jersey expect to go live with legal online gambling sites by the fall. Many other states, such as California, Pennsylvania, and Illinois are considering legalizing internet betting as well.
US federal lawmakers have repeatedly tried to pass legislation that would legalize online poker, though each bill to date has been defeated. Unlike the Canadian government which allows international sites to operate in Canada, the US government maintains a strict anti-internet gambling position.
A new online poker bill was submitted to the US Congress earlier this spring, which would authorize only online poker sites across the country, though states could choose to block the sites as they see fit. Online poker players support the bill, but most people assume political divisiveness will prevent the bill from passing. A similar political division in Canada prevented legal single game sportsbetting against the will of the majority, and most supporters expect politics to defeat the US poker bill – also against the will of the majority.
Online gambling is by and large culturally accepted in both Canada and the US, but political obstruction in both nations prevents legal acceptance of more progressive online gambling environments. In that sense, the two markets – considered very different by players and operators – are more similar than most analysts believe.