The most important online poker FAQs for Canadians
Wondering what poker is like in Canada? Concerned about whether you're violating any laws by playing at an online poker site? Won some money and looking for tax advice? Read our detailed FAQs for everything you need to know about playing online poker in Canada.
Is poker legal for Canadians?
Absolutely. If poker were illegal in Canada, you wouldn't be able to play Texas Hold'em and other popular games at casino properties all over the country. We know what you're thinking. That's a bit of a weak argument. After all, tons of jurisdictions allow poker when it's run by the government, but private games aren't permitted.
So what's the deal with Canada? Well, if you play poker in your basement at home, most legal experts agree that you're not violating any law - as long as you don't collect a fee for hosting an event.
What about online poker? Is that legal in Canada?
If you were paying attention to the online poker scene in the US back in 2011, you know that the US government essentially shut down the online poker market, charging three of the big online poker sites with evading the law by providing services to Americans. While south of the border they're on a bit of a witch hunt, here in Canada poker players are much freer to enjoy the game they love.
In fact, after the US government's attack on the industry, a lot of poker players moved north to Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Windsor, Whistler, and scores of other cities so that they could access big online poker sites.
The provincial governments have taken an "if you can't beat them, you might as well join them" attitude. Rather than get involved in an offshore company's right to operate on the Internet, several Canadian provinces have decided to set up their own online poker sites for residents.
The quality of these sites aren't usually that great, with higher rake and fewer players. But the fact that they exist shows that online poker is something that Canadians have the freedom to play.
What taxes do you have to pay on your winnings?
That actually depends on your circumstances. Lottery and gambling winnings aren't taxed in Canada. But if online poker becomes your sole source of income, tax law gets a little murkier. The Canada Revenue Agency might actually look at your poker winnings as income.
You need to win a lot of money, and you need to win it quite frequently for the government to look at playing poker as an income. The advantages, however, of having your poker income taxed is that you'll likely be able to write certain things off, like travel to poker tournaments around the world, for example. Of course, everyone's situation is different so always consult a tax lawyer before you file.
Are there any specific laws I should know about?
There's some language in the Criminal Code of Canada pertaining to online gambling, but most of the details have to do with operating an online gambling within the country. Remember, all Canadian online poker sites are actually based overseas and regulated by international gambling authorities.
It's also important to note that many Canadian online poker sites actually operate from just outside of Montreal in Kahnawake. However, because they're on a Native Canadian reservation, they don't have to answer to the federal government.
Can I make a deposit or withdrawal at Canadian online poker sites?
Yes, and it is super easy. Many Canadian online poker sites accept Canadian credit cards, and some of the big ones even offer UseMyBank, the made-in-Canada solution for using your online banking service to transfer money to an online poker site without revealing any details to the site.
Are Canadians eligible to earn online poker welcome bonuses?
Definitely. And because the market is pretty crowded with companies who want your business, the online poker bonuses you can earn are extremely lucrative. Make sure you check out all the offers before accepting just anything.
Do I need to download specific online poker software?
That depends what site you use. Most of the really big and really good online poker sites want you to download software to play. There are a few that let you play poker through your web browser, but the really big ones prefer that you download software.
The sites that that we recommend on our site for Canadian comply with industry security standards and have been checked to make sure that they're free of viruses, malware, and other online threats.
Can I play online poker on my smartphone?
At some online poker sites, yes. There are a few Canada online poker sites that offer apps for Android, iPhone, and other platforms. But remember, you're playing on a much smaller screen so the experience won't be the same as what you'd find on your laptop. And don't forget, if you're playing on the go, you're using a 3G or LTE connection, so make sure you've got a solid data plan from Rogers, Bell, Telus, or whatever mobile provider you happen to be with.
Can I really trust these big online poker sites?
The big ones like 888 Poker and PokerStars, definitely. There have been online poker concerns in the past, especially with a few cheating scandals at one of the former big online poker sites. While the cheating scandal was pretty brutal, it caused way more online poker sites to be more transparent in how they do business, and it allowed for players to scrutinize everything even more. If you play at the big sites, you can be confident that they're playing fairly and that they'll be responsible with your money.
What exactly is rake?
When you play poker at any casino, including at places like Fallsview and River Rock, the casino takes a cut of every pot. It's their fee for hosting the game. Remember, when you play poker, you're not playing against the house. You're playing against other poker players. The casino needs to make money. The same thing happens online, but the good news is that the rake is often way less than live.
I don't want to commit to playing for real. Can I play free online poker?
Yes. We mentioned before the there's a lot of competition for your business, so online poker sites will often offer great bonuses to get players to sign up. But they also know that many players are reluctant to make a deposit if they're not convinced that the site is amazing.
That's why many Canadian online poker sites will let players enjoy free online poker. And in many cases, you can actually win prizes or seats in real money tournaments - all for free.