The current global situation has increased the fascination with online services, making digital entertainment more critical than ever before. This has meant an uptick for the TV and movie industry, with consumers opting to stream content at home while unable to visit theatres.
But gambling firms have also enjoyed a surge in interest, with new players discovering the fun of playing online.
Historically, there have been strict rules around online casinos in the US and Canada, but things have been slowly changing.
Here’s a closer look at the legislation around online gaming and what’s expected to change in the coming months.
The US has historically had stringent laws around online betting, prohibiting operators based in the US from running online casinos and banning payment processors from enabling transactions with offshore gaming firms.
The result of this was that US players were unable to legally access online gaming or betting in any form.
However, in 2018 a Supreme Court ruling completely changed the landscape by setting aside an existing federal ban on sports betting. This left each state free to determine its own sports betting laws and whether to permit online gambling.
Since the change, more than 30 states have legalised sports betting or are in the process of doing so. Only a tiny minority of states, such as Utah, are expected to snub the relaxation in online sports betting laws entirely.
Although there have been substantial revisions to the sports betting laws, expanding this to include online casinos doesn’t seem to be on the horizon just yet. But for states who are keen to include online casinos, West Virginia has proven that it’s possible.
The Bush administration in 2006 banned foreign casinos from providing services to US residents; this was in addition to the existing Wire Act of 1961, which most thought banned online gambling. In 2011 this was challenged, and the Department of Justice confirmed that the Wire Act was intended to cover racketeering, not betting per se. As a direct result of this, online casinos were legalised in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Any change requires an amendment to the state legislation, but it’s entirely possible to make online casinos legal in the US. And with the popularity of sports betting since the 2018 Supreme Court ruling, it’s very possible that more states will begin to consider this possibility.
Canada’s laws around online gaming weren’t quite as strict as the US, but they had the result of limiting where people could play.
Historically, only government-operated entities were able to offer gambling services in Canada. This meant it was illegal for any operator located within Canada to provide online casino games or sports betting. However, there was no embargo on betting firms located overseas offering their services to Canadian residents; registering and playing online with a company located outside the Canadian borders didn’t break any rules.
Thanks to lobbying groups, including Entain, who already feature PartyCasino in Canada, the Private Members Bill C-218 received Royal Assent in July 2021.
The passing of this bill means that each province will be able to decide its own laws regarding sports betting on single events, including whether to allow private companies to provide services. Provinces such as Ontario have taken the lead and are expected to be operating a fully regulated market for sports betting in the near future.
While the C-218 bill refers exclusively to online sports betting, it’s believed that this significant change moves everything closer to legalising online gaming of all types. There are no formal announcements so far, but the move to legalise sports betting represents such a seismic shift, it’s fully expected that more changes will follow.