Gambling Regulations in the USA and Canada

Gambling Regulations in the USA and Canada

The regulatory landscapes of gambling in the USA and Canada consist of complicated state laws and complex federal-provincial dynamics in Canada. In the United States, gambling laws demonstrate significant variability due to each state’s autonomy over its legislation.

This decentralized approach results in a mosaic of regulations, with each state crafting its unique stance towards gambling activities. States such as Alabama showcase this diversity – permitting limited forms of gambling like fantasy sports and charity gaming yet maintaining a generally prohibitive stance towards mainstream gambling and online betting​​​​​​​​​​.

A federal-provincial dynamic shapes Canada’s regulatory framework. The federal government, in 1985, delegated the control of gambling laws to individual provinces, adding layers of complexity and variance across the nation. Each of the ten provinces is responsible for its own gambling regulations, impacting land-based and online gambling entities within their jurisdictions. Despite the commonality in most provincial laws, there are slight differences in the types of permitted gambling and legal gambling ages​​.

The US is a much bigger market, and in the second quarter of 2023, the gambling revenue hit $16 billion, a new industry record. The average revenue per user (ARPU) in the Online Gambling market will be US$395.40 in 2023.

Canadian casinos, on the other hand, have different figures. The current market size is estimated to be $16 billion, and it is projected to grow higher in the years to come, as currently, 66% of adults in the country engage in some form of gambling. 

US Gambling Regulations

State-by-State Gambling Laws

In the United States, each state can regulate or prohibit gambling activities within its borders. This leads to a broad spectrum of regulations across the country. States like Alaska exhibit a stringent approach to gambling. 

Known for its rigorous anti-gambling laws, Alaska only allows a few tribal casinos to operate, with little inclination towards liberalizing these laws in the foreseeable future​​​​​​​​​​.

In contrast, Arizona’s approach to gambling is more nuanced. While it generally opposes commercial gambling, Arizona permits online sports betting and operates more than 25 tribal casinos. 

This reflects a trend where states are gradually embracing certain forms of gambling, particularly sports betting and tribal gaming while remaining cautious about fully opening up to all types of gambling​​​​​​​​​​.

Other states like Alabama also mirror this cautious stance. Alabama allows specific gambling types like fantasy sports, charity, and tribal gaming but remains opposed mainly to mainstream gambling activities. The state’s reluctance to legalize online gambling and sports betting is indicative of the conservative attitudes prevalent in certain regions, particularly those within the Bible Belt​​​​​​​​​​.

Federal Influence on Gambling

At the federal level, laws like the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 play a significant role in shaping gambling practices. These laws do not directly prohibit online gambling but impose restrictions on financial transactions related to unlawful internet gambling, thereby influencing how states approach the legalization and regulation of online gambling platforms.

The interplay between federal and state laws is crucial in understanding the gambling landscape in the US. Federal laws set the overarching legal framework, while states navigate within this framework to formulate their gambling policies. 

The dynamic leads to varied interpretations and implementations of gambling regulations across states, contributing to the diverse gambling landscape in the US.

Impact on Casinos and Gambling Activities

The state-specific approach to gambling in the US directly impacts the legality, proliferation, and types of casinos and gambling activities available in different states. States with liberal gambling laws have witnessed a growth in the number and variety of gambling establishments, including commercial casinos, tribal casinos, and online gambling platforms. 

In states with restrictive laws, gambling options are limited, often confined to tribal gaming or specific types of betting like parimutuel betting on horse races.

The diversity in gambling regulations across states also influences economic aspects such as tourism, employment, and state revenues generated from gambling. States with more liberal gambling laws often see a boost in tourism and economic activity related to gambling, while more conservative states forego these potential benefits.

Canadian Gambling Regulations and Canadian Casinos

Canadian casino gambling regulations exhibit a collaboration between federal and provincial levels. The federal Criminal Code is the overarching statute governing gambling activities, with specific exceptions like pari-mutuel betting on horse races. However, the actual operation and provision of gambling services, including casinos, fall under provincial jurisdictions. This delegation allows provinces to tailor gambling laws to their regional contexts, affecting the presence and diversity of Canadian casinos nationwide​​.

Provinces manage gambling laws and license Canadian casinos, ensuring that all gambling operators adhere to the rules set forth by the governing province. This provincial autonomy contributes to the varied gambling landscape across Canada. For instance, the first fully legal online casino was launched in British Columbia in 2012, indicating the progressive stance of some provinces towards online gambling​​.

Taxation in the Canadian gambling sector is streamlined, with no industry-specific taxes or levies imposed. Instead, gambling companies adhere to the general federal and provincial income tax laws, maintaining a consistent taxation framework across the industry​​.

Additionally, Canadian provincial lottery corporations emphasize social responsibility in gambling. Policies include training programs on responsible gaming, information dissemination for informed gambling choices, and the operation of voluntary exclusion programs. These measures demonstrate a commitment to promoting a responsible gambling culture across Canada​​.


Their complexity and regional diversity mark the gambling regulatory landscapes in the USA and Canada. The USA’s state-by-state approach leads to a broad spectrum of gambling regulations, while Canada’s federal-provincial collaboration allows for tailored regional gambling laws. This intricate regulatory environment significantly influences casinos’ establishment, operation, diversity, and betting activities in both countries.

About the author

Johnny is dedicated to providing useful information on commonly asked questions on the internet. He is thankful for your support ♥

Leave a Comment