Poker is one of the most popular table games at casinos, beloved by amateur and professional players around the world. Outside of the casino floor, it’s also one of the few casino games that people regularly play at home. Poker nights are common, but who’s ever been to a baccarat night?
Poker was also one of the first casino games to make the jump to the digital world. Online poker was originally rejected by purists of the game who felt that it would never be able to accurately capture the gameplay and feel of an in-person game. It didn’t take too long for those views to be changed by seeing how well online poker worked in reality.
For those who love playing poker, but don’t live close enough to a poker room to go regularly, online poker is an ideal alternative. At this point in time, many people prefer playing online poker because it’s more convenient and brings together players from all over the world.
Read more: Is Online Poker Legal in Ontario?
Over the last two decades, online gambling laws have been changing as governments around the world try to keep up with the digital age. These rapid changes occasionally make it hard to keep track of what types of gambling are legalized in which countries, while sometimes the laws even differ between states or provinces in the same country.
In this article, we’ll give a brief overview of the road to online poker legislation in Ontario and the current state of affairs. We’ll finish by providing information on where players in Ontario can legally play online poker.
Before legalization: Crossing the border
Before the recent legislation, poker players in Ontario only had access to a small number of poker rooms in the entire province. As of 2023, there are only five poker rooms operating in the entire province, four of which are located in Toronto. There are five other poker rooms across the border in Quebec but that is still too few to accommodate all the region’s players.
One solution to this problem was to cross the border into the United States. There are a number of poker rooms close to the border in New York, Michigan and Ohio. Prior to the changes in the laws in Canada, crossing the border was also the best option for finding a legal online poker room. Michigan was in fact one of the first states to offer online poker, legalizing online poker rooms in 2003.
Canada’s online gambling laws
When online gambling first became a possibility, Canada’s government was unsure how to proceed. Their initial inertia meant that the laws regulating the industry left a lot of grey areas. Online gambling was technically illegal because the law required sites to have a license, but then they did not provide a way to get that license. This didn’t penalize players, but it also meant that there were no protections for players who chose to play at unlicensed offshore gambling sites.
Each Canadian province has its own lottery corporation that regulates and oversees all forms of legal gambling in the province. This includes everything from lotteries and bingo to horse racing, sports betting, casinos and now online gambling. In 1970, the federal government granted each province the right to decide what types of gambling would be allowed. By the 1990s, casinos had been built in many provinces, including Casino Windsor in Ontario.
Like the United States, Canada has a federal government as well as provincial governments. Their federal government ruled in 2021 that online gambling laws should also be decided by each province. This is because each province has its own culture, history and social comfort with gambling. By leaving it up to the provinces, this made it possible for gambling legislation to move faster in provinces that had an interest in legalization.
State of online gambling in Ontario
Ontario quickly passed online gambling legislation. This isn’t very surprising as Ontario has a long history with gambling. In fact, most of Canada’s top poker players are from Ontario, including Daniel Dvoress and Daniel Negreanu.
In April 2022, online gambling, including poker, became legal in Ontario. The market is under the oversight of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and its special branch, iGaming Ontario. The legal age to gamble online or in person in Ontario is 19. Players in Ontario can make deposits and withdrawals using any of the leading payment methods. This includes debit/credit cards, prepaid cards, bank transfers and digital payment apps.
In order to legally operate in Ontario, an online gambling company needs to apply for and be granted a license. One of the other rules is referred to as a ‘ring-fence’ player pool rule. This means that players in Ontario can only play against players that are also located in the province. They do not need to be residents, simply in the province at the time of playing.
Obviously, legal online gambling is still a very young industry in Ontario. Luckily for Canadian poker fans, online casinos have been growing steadily in other markets and now compete with traditional land-based casinos in terms of popularity and quality. Even the most established gambling brands now have online sites. Players in Ontario have managed to skip the growing pains of the early online casino days and dive straight into top-quality sites and mobile apps.
In order to protect their players, the AGCO has required that online gambling operators put safety measures in place. The most common responsible gambling features offered are time limits, spending and loss limits, and self-exclusion options. They also expect online gambling providers to have Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations in place to prevent minors from playing and identity theft.
Where to play online poker in Ontario
The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is probably the best known and most respected poker tournament in the world. Their live events in Las Vegas attract players and spectators from all over who love the game. During 2020, the WSOP decided to move some of their events online. These ended up being so popular that they have continued them and now have entire series online.
GG Poker is an official WSOP site and offers regular online poker and poker tournaments for Ontario residents. This is one of the most exciting partnerships in poker. They have options that are perfect for players of all skill levels.
FireVegas is a fairly new casino brand, but they’ve already made a name for themselves. Alongside plenty of poker options, they also offer a wide range of other casino games for their players.
Casino Days is one of the leading online poker sites in Ontario. They are particularly known for their live casino. They have enough live casino poker tables to satisfy any player.
Dream Vegas Casino
Dream Vegas has over 1,000 games for players to choose from, including a top-notch selection of poker games. They also offer 24/7 customer support, which is great for players’ peace of mind.
Lucky Days Casino
Lucky Days doesn’t offer as many games as their leading competitors. However, the 800 they do have is still plenty of variety. More importantly, however, is that they are considered one of the safest online casinos in the industry.
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