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Online Gambling – Why is it legal in the UK but not in Canada or the US

January 2019 was a devastating month for the US gambling industry. The Justice Department expanded its sports betting prohibition to include internet gambling. Casinos and the resorts that supported them promptly suffered a share price drop, seemingly on the basis of a legal misinterpretation. Sports betting was criminalised in 2011 based on a misreading of a statute, but that doesn’t tell the entire story. The United States’ foray into gambling law dates all the way back to the Kennedy era.
Canada’s barring of online gaming is a little more permissive. While it’s illegal to operate an online casino in the Great White North, Canadian territory is home to a number of offshore gaming servers. Locals are allowed to use online casinos, but the casinos themselves cannot be owned and operated within Canadian borders. The legal history of gambling laws are nonetheless as complex as those in the USA. 

Canada’s Past

The first Canadian gambling law was set in stone in 1892, but as time marched on, the law relaxed. Bingo and raffles were legalised first, but 10 years later, horse races were added to the mix. In the Eighties, gambling machines followed, but today, provinces have the power to license and regulate local casinos. This relaxing of the law made life easier for online gambling enterprises, partly as a knock-on effect of the government’s efforts to run lotteries.

When it comes to online gambling Canada officials have given The Kahnawake Gaming Commission the solitary power to choose who receives gaming licenses. The law has a veritable encyclopedia of criteria to decide which businesses are labelled “legitimate.”

Remote gambling was legalised in 2009, so while online gaming is put through its paces by the government, casinos are allowed to apply for licenses. The stiff laws in the industry are an effort to ensure that winnings can be withdrawn and fair odds are kept in play. They also allow the government to monitor data protection, keeping members safe from identity and credit card theft. 

U.S. Gaming Law

The United States’ gambling industry is affected by a range of niche issues. The Federal Wire Act still protects citizens from illegal bookmaking, which was once against the law. In 2011, that law was expanded upon to include online sports betting and gaming, but individual States are now allowed to legalise online casinos.

The UIGEA monitors fraudulent casinos without making internet gaming a crime. On a federal level, most online casinos are legal in the US, but The Wire Act makes sports betting illegal on a federal level. Games of skill such as fantasy sports and online poker are legal in terms of The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. That said, only casinos that carry a US license are allowed to offer their services to American citizens. While it may look as though the United States has developed comprehensive regulations for the industry, online gaming is often only legal in some states because of a lack of laws. 

Gaming in the UK

The UK created the Gambling Act in 2005, and with it came the Gambling Commission, which regulates all local gaming through comprehensive licensing and advice. Remote casinos are required to have a seperate license for all activities, from sports betting to lottery games and software. Casinos outside the country can only operate in the UK if they’re one of the six nations whitelisted by the gambling act. Operating licenses keep the industry ethically pure through a range of stiff conditions. Casinos are required to offer support to gambling addicts and to conduct their business in a fair, transparent way.

The approaches of the UK, US, and Canada aren’t as different as you might think. All three nations have knitted their online gambling laws around concern for the wellbeing of local residents. All have created regulations to prevent fraudulent practices. Online gambling generates $154 billion in global revenue—a significant amount that has the power to strengthen national economies. It is, however, a notoriously sketchy industry that’s prone to fraud. Only a powerful regulatory landscape can overcome that challenge. 

Drafting Laws for Internet Crime

The world is still coming to grips with the legal landscape required to cope with online crime. Some countries are still reliant on old electronic communications acts to regulate crimes that require far more comprehensive measures. Acts that have been drafted for this landscape are often incomplete, so even first world countries are having to amend their laws as they gain a better understanding of the issues at hand. 

Culture and Evolution

Online gaming is a core part of the British economy and a favourite activity among citizens. Many of history’s oldest bookmakers were launched in the UK, so the nation has had plenty of time to develop complex laws for the industry. National values also play a part, of course. Every nation has a different view of betting and the like. Some have accepted it more readily than others, and the UK is certainly one of the most permissive countries in this regard.

The USA has a tradition of intolerance for gambling, and while attitudes are quickly changing, a lack of social acceptance has led to a slower legalisation process. The Great Depression pushed many states to begin legalising gambling in an effort to inject fuel into the economy, but lawmakers have taken a long time to see the industry in a positive light.

Historically, Canada has been equally intolerant of the industry. Gambling was once banned entirely, but in the late Sixties, the government began to realise the value of lotteries. That simple change led to nationwide legalization as the gaming bug spread across the country. The industry is now thriving, both online and off.

Much of UK law is derived from EU law, so Britain’s regulatory landscape is more sophisticated than most. It has a wealth of knowledge to draw from that Canada and the US lack. All three countries are slowly untangling the red tape responsible for online gambling bans, so the future looks bright for the remote casino industry.



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