Nova Scotia Moving for Immunity Against Gambling-Related Lawsuits

Assessing the proposed lawsuit immunity legislation from the Nova Scotia government and how it may affect offline gambling and Canadian online casinos.

The murky world of Canada’s gambling laws has just become a little cloudier, with the government of Nova Scotia wishing to amend the Gaming Control Act. This would have the effect of making it immune to gambling lawsuits (a protection that will extend to provincial casino operators and individual politicians). But how will it affect gamblers at both offline and online casinos?

Online Casinos for Canadians

The proposed legislative changes are set to affect provincial casinos, the details of which are laid out below. However, whilst online casino betting is entirely legal for Canadians it’s worth noting there are relatively few based in the country itself, with most instead being offshore in nature.

Canada is amongst the top 10 countries when it comes to the number of gamblers, and the general lack of domestic online casinos means they’re popular with overseas sites. Players interested in finding good sites for Canadian gamblers should consult this list in 2020 to find the best online casinos to play at. There are plenty of great offshore online casinos, many of which are open to Canadian players and keen to accept them, given the somewhat grey area of national regulation regarding domestic online casinos. This means there are plenty of Canadians who want somewhere to play, and offshore sites are happy to help.

Because of the large number of Canadians seeking sites based overseas, Canadian dollars are commonly offered as a currency option, which helps avoid the potential problem of exchange rate discrepancies (not much fun winning at the casino only to lose out to the exchange rate markets). It also makes it easier to keep track of how much no deposit and match bonuses are really worth, and manage stakes at the hundreds of slots and dozens of table games that online casinos routinely offer.

Nova Scotia Immunity Amendment

Nova Scotia’s government has proposed an amendment to the Gaming Control Act which would have the effect of making it immune to gambling lawsuits. This would also protect the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, provincial casino operators, politicians who have handled associated files during the last couple of decades, and the Atlantic Lottery Corporation.

Not only that, the legislation would be retroactive in nature and apply all the way back to May 2 1991 when VLT’s (video lottery terminals) were legalised in Nova Scotia.

Finance Minister Karen Casey has asserted that the proposal is akin to that already passed by the New Brunswick government in 2019.

Minister Casey went on to say that the move had been prompted by legal action underway from Newfoundland and presently before the Supreme Court of Canada. This class action involves up to 30,000 people who put money into Atlantic Lottery Corporation VLTs since 2006.

Minister Casey stated her view that Nova Scotia feels the machines are safe.

According to figures from the provincial budget, all forms of gambling contributed just over $145m in the previous year.

Impact on Land-based Gambling?

The suggested amendment is clearly intended to head off any class action lawsuit and protect the Nova Scotia government, firms, and individual politicians from being the subject of such a legal action. It may also increase pressure to reduce the number of VLTs or impose further restrictions on them. The desire of the provincial government to retain the tax income from VLTs whilst making themselves immune to class action lawsuits may end up forcing a tipping point where the politicians have to choose between keeping VLTs and being held responsible, or losing VLTs and associated revenue. But that point would be some way in the future, if it’s ever reached.

There will be, under current plans, an exemption for negligence cases (where negligence occurs, legal action may still take place). In all other cases, this means individuals who gamble too much at VLTs will not be able to take legal action to seek redress.

Current Canadian Gambling Law

Gambling has happened legally in Canada since the 19th century. But despite this, and many land-based casinos operating throughout the nation, the online legislation is a little less straightforward.

It is 100% legal for Canadians to bet at offshore online casinos. However, it is not currently legal to operate an online casino in Canada. Gibraltar and the Isle of Man are both popular sites for online casinos, and, to confuse things a little more, casinos based on the Kahnawake native reserve are also in operation.

Provincial Gambling Law

Online casinos have received approval from a number of provinces, including Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia, and more may follow. But for those Canadians who live in provinces where such approval is not forthcoming, the offshore online casino option remains on the table.

Impact on Online Gambling?

Although the legal change will be retroactively dated to the introduction of VLT legalisation, and court action that prompted the move is also related to VLTs, the measure appears to be broad enough to include online gambling. Proposals can always be altered, so this may be cleared up in the coming weeks. However, the majority of Canadian online gambling is done at offshore sites, which are licensed and regulated overseas in any event. Provincial casinos are covered by the move but domestic online casinos are rare in Canada. The impact on those who prefer online casinos may, therefore, be relatively limited. It does highlight, however, the importance of playing at sites which are licensed by trusted territories (including the United Kingdom, Malta, and Gibraltar).

The forthcoming legislation is perhaps unlikely to impress Canadians who will soon be unable to pursue lawsuits relating to gambling against the Nova Scotia government.

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