Gambling in Canada, Eh? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

By in Canada on
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Canada Flag Cards Gambling Dice

Oh, Canada…

Okay, I won’t serenade you with the Canadian anthem.

Canada’s history of gambling is as long as its famously cold winters. It’s legal, now it’s not, now it’s kind of legal, as so on.

Our neighbors to the north have a vibrant gambling culture. They have the big flashy casinos and some quirkier traditions and games that we don’t have here in the United States.

The Canadian gambling market is estimated to be worth around $44 billion (Canadian dollars) and is projected to keep its 300% year over year growth.

I have played at a couple of Canadian casinos. They’re a much like our casinos, just a little different. Just like their Thanksgiving is is essentially the same holiday, but it’s in Mid-October.

You get the gist.

Here’s everything you need to know about Canadian casinos and gambling:

History of Gambling in Canada

The first Western settlers in Canada found the native people played a game of chance that involved betting on sticks. The native name for the game is “slahal,” which translates to “stick game” in English.

In 1497, John Cabot discovered the region on an exploration mission for Henry VII when he found the natives playing slahal.

The Canadian territories continued to enjoy gambling in almost all forms once Western immigrants settled Canada. Gambling would become a popular form of entertainment across the region.

As in America’s Wild West, card games were widespread among the tradesmen and explorers. This is especially true when you find yourself cooped up in a cabin with 6 meters of snow on the ground.

Once Canada became a country in 1867, its citizens continued to enjoy legal gambling in most forms. It was not until 1892 that the Canadian Parliament decided that gambling (in all types) was not an acceptable form of entertainment.

In 1892, the Canadian Parliament outlawed all forms of gambling, shutting down all legal gambling that the country enjoyed since the first settlers stepped foot in the region in 1497.

Gambling would continue to remain illegal in Canada for a short 8 years. In 1900, the Canadian government scaled back on the stringent gambling laws to allow citizens to participate in bingo games and raffles that benefited a charitable cause.

Gambling in Canada in the 1900s

In 1925, horse racing is introduced to the list of legal gambling activities permitted by the Canadian government. This was seen as a massive win for Canada’s gambling industry, as this was the first form of gambling that was legalized that didn’t have to benefit a charity.

Charitable gambling, raffles, and horse racing continued to be the only legal and socially acceptable form of gambling in Canada until the late 1960s. Around this time, there was political and community interest in legalizing lotteries.

The Canadian Parliament legalized state-run lotteries in 1970. When the Canadian government saw the success of government-managed lotteries in the United States, they realized the financial opportunities that Canada could take advantage of legalizing lotteries.

In 1974, the Canadian Organizing Committee for the Olympics (1976) was approved to hold a countrywide lottery to raise money for Montreal bid to host the 1976 Olympics. This was the first-ever national lottery held in Canada.

The Olympic Lottery was an overwhelming success. It raised over $230 million in profits. The lottery was also considered successful in that Montreal won the bid and was host to the 1976 Summer Olympiad.

There were quite a bit of legal problems when the winnings and the lottery funds were distributed.

With the success of the first national lottery, the Canadian gambling code was rewritten in 1985 to allow further national lotteries to take place on the same level of participation

Canadians continued to enjoy charitable gambling, horse racing, and lotteries until 1989, when the first commercial land-based casino opened in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

This would usher in the explosion of government and privately managed traditional casinos across Canada. The proliferation of land-based casinos is now part of the Canadian landscape.

There are state-owned casinos as well as Native Lands and privately held casinos across the country. Canadians can also enjoy playing televised gaming devices like video poker.

In 1996, the Canadian government legalized online casinos. This would make Canada a front runner in the now-famous online casino industry. This title would not last long. Canada outlawed online casinos from doing business within its borders in 2004.

Land-Based Casinos in Canada

Canada has a lot to offer when it comes to land-based casinos. Canada has 100 casinos across the country. The largest casino is in Montreal, and it’s the Casino de Montreal.

Casino de Montreal’s gaming floor is massive, clocking in at 526,000 square feet. In comparison, this is substantial considering the world’s biggest casino (WinStar in Thackerville, Ok, USA) is around 600,000 square feet.

The oldest casino in Canada is Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall in Dawson City, Yukon Providence. It opened its doors in 1972. You can bet it kept many locals’ cabin fever at bay through the brutal winters that make the Yukon famous. The gaming floor is tiny but unique at 8,000 square feet.

Just like America, many providences have legalized sports betting. Check the area you’re visiting to make sure they allow sports gambling.

Unlike the US, the legal gambling age in Canada varies by providence. The legal gambling age ranges from 18-19 years old with a valid ID.

Canadian land-based casino players can enjoy the same games and slots we enjoy here in the states. The most popular games (in order of popularity) are:

  1. Slot Machines
  2. Baccarat
  3. Poker
  4. Roulette (American and French)
  5. Bingo

Since Canada has 100 licensed land-based casinos, you can guess that there are some great casinos to visit next time you’re visiting our northern neighbor. Here’s a list of my top 3 casinos in Canada:

1- Casino de Montreal

  • Location: Montreal, Quebec
  • Floor Size: 526,000 square feet
  • Slots: 3,200
  • Gaming Tables: 115
  • Biggest Jackpot: 1.8 billion on a progressive slot machine
  • Website: lotoquebec.com

2- Caesars Windsor

3- River Rock Casino and Resort

  • Location: Richmond, British Columbia
  • Floor Size: 70,000 square feet
  • Slots: Est. 1,200
  • Gaming Tables: 114
  • Biggest Jackpot: 4.5 million on a slot machine
  • Website: http://www.riverrock.com/

Online Gambling in Canada

Most people ask, “is it legal to play at online casinos in Canada?”

That’s a tricky question, and the answer is even trickier.  It is illegal to operate an online casino based out of Canada.

But it is not unlawful to play an online casino in Canada.  That’s the most straightforward answer I can offer.

So, no online casinos doing business in Canada and Canadians can play offshore (other countries) online casinos.  It’s confusing.

Laws surrounding online casinos all around the world are always a little murky.

Here’s the real kicker:

Most offshore casinos have their servers located on the Kahnawake Native Reserve, in Canada.

But how is that possible?

Much like the Native Tribes of the United States, the Native Tribes of Canada are considered sovereign nations and have their own gaming laws. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission decided to allow online casinos to do business from their territory.

This loophole makes Canada the most significant host to online casino servers.

So, just to clarify:

  1. Online casinos are illegal to do business out of Canada
  2. Unless the online casino’s servers are based in the Kahnawake Native Reserve because they are a sovereign nation of Canada
  3. Canadians can play offshore online casinos

Like most players that are playing an offshore casino because online casinos are illegal where they live, depositing money and transferring winnings can be tricky for Canadian players. Make sure to read the term and conditions on the site you chose before playing any online casino.

Canadians, like most of the world, are gravitating towards online gambling. Online casinos offer convenience that land-based casinos can’t compete with.

Canadian gamblers like the accessibility of playing online casinos, from their home computers or smartphones. They don’t have to fuss with booking travel, hotel accommodations, and the other headaches that are tied to travel.

I don’t know about you, but if I lived in the colder parts of Canada, I could easily be persuaded to play an online casino from the cozy comfort of my home rather than getting out in the freezing temperatures that Canada is so famous for.

Conclusion

I hope you have a better grasp of the gambling laws, trends, and landscape in Canada. They love gambling, that is for sure.

I would love to hear your thoughts and questions. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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