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March 30 , 2010

Canadians warming up to Internet gambling

Awareness of illegal status of activity sinks while interest and acceptance increases

One fact remains true: Internet gambling is for the most part, illegal in both the United States and Canada. But public thinking, awareness, and interest in the activity do not necessarily reflect that. A recent Ipsos Reid survey conducted online with American and Canadian respondents as part of a joint U.S./Canada lottery study found that, when compared to two years ago, fewer people in both countries are aware that Internet gambling is illegal and more would be willing to see it permitted as long as it were regulated.

“The idea of Internet gambling appears to be gaining acceptance in North America, with more people expressing an interest to see it legalized with proper regulation,” says Paul Lauzon, Senior Vice President & Managing Director of Ipsos Reid’s Lottery & Gaming Group. “Governments also appear to be doing a poor job at informing citizens that Internet gambling is in fact illegal unless regulated by a State or Provincial authority. Over a two year period, we’ve found that fewer people are aware that Internet gambling is illegal in their country.”

The study revealed that over the past two years, Americans and Canadians have become less aware of the illegal status of Internet gambling. In the U.S., 37% of respondents to the survey were aware that Internet gambling was illegal. Two years earlier, 41% of respondents were aware of this fact. In Canada, awareness of the illegal nature of Internet gambling is even worse and getting worse still: only 23% of Canadian respondents were aware that Internet gambling is illegal in their country; two years prior, awareness was at 28%.

The new study also shows that citizens on both sides of the border are becoming more accepting to the idea of allowing Internet gambling, provided a healthy dose of regulation fits in the mix. Half of Americans (49%) and slightly more than half of Canadians (55%) are willing to permit Internet gambling as long as government regulations are in place. This represents a slight increase in tolerance when compared to the 2007 study, where 46% of Americans and 48% of Canadians shared this view.

If Internet gambling were made legal in their respective countries, Americans and Canadians both feel that the regulatory responsibility should be in the hands of the federal government, but the degree of that sentiment varies. In the U.S., 55% of respondents feel the federal government should be the regulator whereas 45% feel it should handled be at the state level. Canadians are more intent on federal regulation, with two-thirds (67%) feeling the onus should be at the federal level and only a third (33%) feeling it should be a provincial matter.

“The regulation issue has the biggest impact on American gambling behaviors,” adds Paul Lauzon. “Across the board on a number of gambling, betting, and gaming options, we see that Americans are more concerned with regulation than Canadians. Comparing a number of legally permitted gambling options, Canadian interest in playing remains almost unchanged based on regulation or no regulation. But Americans feel more comfortable in playing betting games and gambling when there is a system government regulation in place.”

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted between January 4 and January 7, 2010.

For the Canadian portion of this survey, a national sample of 1032 adults from Ipsos' Canadian online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/-3.05 percentage points 19 times out of 20 of what the results would have been had the entire population of adults in Canada been polled. In Canada, questionnaires are completed online in English with the exception of Quebec, where respondents are offered a choice of either official language. In the US, all questionnaires are completed online in English.

All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.


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