As the global economic recession that began in late 2007 begins to drag into a fourth year, nations across the world are searching high and low for new sources of tax income to help fill their empty coffers. Online casinos, once detested by nations around the world, are becoming an ever more popular establishment within political circles. European nations, led by England, began legalizing and taxing online casinos in the mid 2000s. In the United States, where opposition has long been staunch, opinions are starting to turn. Now it appears that Canada may be the next hot spot for online casinos after the province of British Columbia opened the door to the online gambling question in Canada.
In July the British Columbia Lottery Corporation launched the first Canadian based online casino, PlayNow.com. Though the site was not up and running for long, it appears that Pandora’s Box has been opened in Canada, unleashing an unstoppable force. Like proverbial dominoes, the other Canadian provinces began to consider the upside of legalized online gambling with governments in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and now Alberta contemplating legalized online casinos.
With tax revenues dwindling and government aid output increasing, there is a loud call from many citizens to allow online casinos to set up shop in Canada. An estimated $1 billion is spent each year by Canadian citizens at online casinos, but as of right now all that money is going offshore to companies operating online casinos from afar, safe from the legal arm of the Canadian government. Those in favor of legalizing online casinos want the government to get their fair share of the pie, passing on the tax benefits to the citizens of Canada. Governments also believe that through regulation everyone can come out winners. Citizens can reap the tax benefits and governments can offer programs that help treat or avoid problem gambling.
Despite the economic windfall to be had, online casinos do have their detractors. Some in the political circles question the government’s ability to do anything about problem gamblers, citing a lack of true understanding on the part of governments about the intricacies of online casinos. Estimates put the number of problem gamblers at online casinos near 38% while land based casinos experience a rate of problems gamblers just below 8%. Representatives for land based casinos across Canada, particularly those in Alberta and Ontario, have spoken out against legalizing online gambling as well. They feel online casinos will have a damaging effect on business in their establishments and will cost Canadians jobs.
The situation in Canada is similar to that of Europe and the United States. There are factions that want online casinos legalized, and there are sides that appear vehemently against it. The best chance for Canada to legalize online casinos and reap the financial reward may involve following the paths forged in Europe where countries like England and France have successfully legalized online casinos.