Type of document: Prosecution Directive
Effective date: November 14, 2017

The Criminal Code prohibits various gambling related activities involving betting, pyramid schemes and games of chance and lotteries. Backroom betting businesses, black market internet gambling websites, rigged midway games at a summer fair and video gambling machines in a bar are just a few examples of illegal gambling activities.


The Criminal Code provides for exemptions and exceptions to these prohibitions. Generally speaking, bets between private individuals who are not engaged in the business of betting are lawful. The provinces, charitable and religious organizations, horseracing associations and local fairs have been afforded exemptions to offer gaming and betting related activities, subject to strict controls.

Circumstances of the offence

What may appear as isolated gaming and betting related offences may in fact be linked to organized crime. Organized crime relies on gambling to raise money and to launder proceeds of crime. There is a high public interest in prosecuting organized crime. Criminal conduct in the regulated gaming and betting spheres – such as a fraud committed by an Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) lottery ticket seller, or cheating by a patron or operator at an OLG casino - is also serious. Such conduct undermines the integrity and reputation of lawful gaming and betting operations. Even comparatively low level gambling related offences – for example, a corner store or bar owner offering a video gambling machine for customers - can encourage other criminal or anti-social behaviour potentially corrosive to the safety and security of the local community.

The Prosecutor reviewing gaming and betting related charges should confer with the investigating police agency. Information provided by the investigating police agency will include the circumstances of the offence.


In gaming and betting related offences, the Criminal Code authorizes the restraint, seizure and forfeiture of the proceeds of crime and of the property used to commit the offence. The Prosecutor must ensure that notice is given to all parties who appear to have a valid interest in any proceeds of crime or property that the Prosecutor is seeking to have forfeited. Reference should be made to the Criminal Asset Forfeiture Directive.

Resolution discussions and sentence

Gaming and betting related offences are not victimless crimes. The resolution of gaming and betting related offences should be premised on providing protection to the public.

Several gaming and betting related offences are subject to mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment for second and subsequent convictions. The Prosecutor must not withdraw charges for such offences solely to avoid the imposition of the mandatory minimum sentence.

Absent exceptional circumstances, the Prosecutor must file a Notice of Intention to Seek Increased Penalty where an accused has a prior conviction for any of these offences. In exceptional circumstances where the Prosecutor is satisfied that the public interest could be served without seeking an increased penalty, the Prosecutor must obtain prior approval from the Crown Attorney or designate not to file a Notice of Intention to Seek Increased Penalty.

Other government bodies have independent authority and discretion over aspects of gaming and betting. Prosecutors must be mindful not to bind those interests during resolution discussions.