The online poker industry thrives in Canada thanks to favorable gaming laws, a healthy economy and educated population. Unlike its neighbors to the south, Canada has not gone down the prohibition route and does not actively block financial transactions to or from poker sites. Getting started is a simple matter of choosing a place to play and making a deposit.
In my experience, the best Canadian poker sites actually go out of their way to cater specifically to Canadians. They do so by betting up deposit and withdrawals methods that are capable of quickly moving money through the country’s banking system, accepting CAD payments and providing their software in both English and French.
The reason I choose these sites in particular is because they go out of their way to make life easier for their Canadian customers. There are many other options out there, but no others really compare when we consider player traffic, safety record and ease of use. If you’re looking for a new place to play real money poker, these are your best bets.
Depositing with CAD
Poker sites that accept Canadians provide multiple funding options that make it a pretty simple process to get your account funded. Almost any option you would use for making any other purchase on the internet can also be used to play real money poker. The most common of these are credit and debit cards.
Most of the lager poker sites also provide a few direct bank-to-bank transfer methods such as iDebit, Instadebit and bank wires. These work better for large deposits and require no credit card information. The only thing you need is a bank account.
If you don’t have a bank account or would prefer to deposit via more private means, you should also find a few prepaid options such as Ukash, Entropay and Paysafecard. Each of these function just like normal prepaid gift cards but with higher acceptance rates (many gift cards cannot be used for online poker). All you need to deposit with a prepaid method is actual cash.
Can I play in CAD?
You can deposit in Canadian dollars, but I don’t know of any poker sites that let you actually play in CAD. The biggest poker sites attract traffic from around the world and tend to group people into EUD and USD tables just to have a common currency for everyone. If we all played in our native currencies only, there would be a lot less game selection and way smaller tournaments.
After you deposit in CAD, your poker site will convert your currency to USD or EUR whenever you join a table and then convert it back when you leave. It’s a little weird playing in a different currency, but the sense of unfamiliarity passes soon enough. Poker is poker whether you’re playing with USD, CAD or toothpicks.
Why was my credit card deposit declined?
You can thank the United States for that one. A piece of legislation called the UIGEA passed in 2006 makes it a crime for American financial institutions to process transactions for online poker sites. As a result, banks in the USA automatically decline attempted deposits to poker sites.
This spills over into Canada with so many banking institutions operating on both sides of the border. If you have a problem depositing with your debit or credit card and you’re 100% sure you have enough money in your account, the problem is probably related to the UIGEA. The easiest thing to do is just try a different deposit method.
Online Poker Law in Canada
Canada’s gaming laws are badly dated and don’t directly address the issue of betting over the internet. The laws are therefore open to interpretation, but it is generally agreed that there are no laws anywhere that make it a crime to play online poker. It is definitely illegal to start and run a poker site from Canadian soil, but individual players have nothing to worry about.
Part VII of the Criminal Code address gambling and does include a bit about visiting “common gaming houses” that could possibly be interpreted to apply to online poker sites. However, that’s kind of a long shot and Canadian authorities have never actively pursued charges according to that interpretation.
No Canadian has ever gotten in trouble for playing online poker to date. In fact, a number of professional online players from the United States established residences in Canada after the Black Friday indictments of 2011 closed off the USA to most of the world’s largest poker sites. All in all, Canada takes a mostly hands-off approach to online poker.
It should be noted that none of this means online poker is outright legal in Canada. We simply don’t have the correct laws to definitively lay the question to rest. It doesn’t look like the current status quo will be changing any time soon, so I feel confident in telling you that you have nothing to worry about. Canada is one of the better countries to live in if you love online poker.
What about the Kahnawake Gaming Commission?
The Kahnawake Mohawk Territory located near Montreal operates under a completely different set of gaming laws than the rest of Canada. Whereas Canada criminalizes the operation of poker sites, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission actually hosts servers and acts as a regulatory agency for online poker sites, casinos and sportsbooks.
At one point, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission was one of the largest regulatory bodies in the world. Tribe members were quick to see the potential of online gambling and established the commission in 1996. They got an early jump on the internet age of poker and it paid off in spades.
The commission once licensed some major poker sites, but it has lost a lot of its luster over the years. They seem to give out licenses just a little too easily for comfort. Taking a look at the list of current permit holders, I can see a few casino sites that I would definitely not recommend to anyone.
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission claims that it functions to ensure the integrity of online poker, enact safeguards for players and so on. However, it is my opinion that the commission functions primarily as a moneymaking enterprise for the Mohawk territory with player safety coming a distant second to that goal.
We only have to look at the Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet scandals of 2007/2008 that occurred on the watch of the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. It was only after poker players discovered evidence of cheating that the KGC finally ran an investigation. The KGC did indeed determine that players had been cheated. The KGC ordered that UB and AP return some $22 million to affected players and pay a fine, but that was all that came of it.
As far as I can tell, the KGC is unable to adequately monitor its licensees. This doesn’t mean that a license from the KGC is necessarily a bad thing, but it’s definitely not a guarantee of any sort. Fortunately for you, the best Canadian poker sites are licensed by much more respectable jurisdictions such as the UK’s Gambling Commission.