History of Gambling in Canada

Learn more about the history of gambling in Canada.

Canadian gambling history goes back in centuries and has many highlights and interesting facts to talk about. Each respected Canadian gambler should know the major facts from the Canadian gambling history if he or she wants to succeed at gambling both land based and online. So, here we go.


There are always some events that go prior to official history and are, however, the turning points that influence the further gambling development periods in Canada. Canada was born in 1867, but before a first sum of money was put on a gambling table as a bet, the native Canadians already were testing some games to try their fortune and play with luck. It’s human nature, though.

Thus, in 1497, a local populace who played diversions of chance games was found by John Cabot, an Italian navigator and explorer. Those amusements the native people were engaged in were said to help their physical, mental, and otherworldly development and growth. Cabot dove more profoundly into this phenomenon, wondered and uncovered that the individuals were betting as far back as in the year 6000 B.C. which turned out to be the first official confirmation of the existence of gambling in Canada.


Of course, gambling in Canada wasn’t like the modern one with dice and cards, etc. аrom the beginning. Rather, it disposed variety of sticks and pebbles, however, with the same basic concept as we know it nowadays: to play and have fun, or even win something over as an ultimate luck.

However, what was done centuries ago as the first gambling events was definitely meant to ricochet in further centuries up till now.

Major History Twists and Turns

Ironically, gambling history often starts from the first bans and adopting the laws to regulate the new gaming phenomena that involve so much money and human resources, as well, distracting them from other, more important and ‘socially useful’ things like work, making game addicts broken, and enriching the casino owners on the contrary.

Historically, gambling always began simply as game variation, betting at extravagant area based clubs which in fact turned into the way of life of the rich and well known as it is even nowadays.

Regardless of laws, some infamous additionally lay hand on these distraction actions which sure were beneficial in both cases: getting broken of rich and famous and hunting for small hardly earned money of the poor and desperate game addicts.

Some take gambling clubs and betting simply as an excursion interest, others are all that much over the top in this action, banned in a few spots and acclaimed to be so in a few others, etc. History proves gambling to be a controversial issue in all terms.

First gambling attempts in Canada

The truth is that the history of gambling in Canada is considered to inextricably be linked to the Canadian Criminal Code since its declaration in 1892. According to it, every form of gambling was banned, which never lasted long, however. Exception was only a horse racing that officially continued to exist and entertain the public.


‘Betting on horse races towards the end of the century happened both on and off the track. In spite of the fact that the lawful status of the on-track wagering was indeterminate, powers were slanted to suit it. ‘

This Criminal Code was firmly related to the English laws that Canada fused at the season of its Confederation in 1867. Since that time, the boycott on betting has bit by bit been lifted. Anyway, the time passed and the tastes changed too.

Main Events In Brief

Over the long time span, Criminal Code exclusions that allowed little scale betting for foundations on behalf of the charities were finally presented. The brightest historical twists as per Alberta Gambling Research Institute in Canada.

  • Somewhere around 1892 and 1969, Canadians could wager on horse races or bet at fair midways in summer.
  • In 1900, bingo and raffles were officially permitted for the charitable purposes first.
  • In 1925, various fairs and exhibitions were officially granted the honorable rights to hold the diverse gambling events.
  • In 1969 the commonplace governments were approved to oversee and supervise the lottery plots.
  • The Canadian government saw the huge value in lotteries in 1969.
  • Beneficent gatherings under the governmental permission were approved too. The government still had control, and even had their own particular lottery which practically made such entertainment national.
  • Later on governments started to create significant incomes from their virtual syndication on Canadian betting and got to be keen on differentiating their gambling advertising.
  • In 1974 to raise funds for the Olympic Games in Montreal the first commercially successful lottery was held.
  • A noteworthy 1985 change to the Criminal Code allowed commonplace governments to direct PCs and feature gaming gadgets (i.e. VLTs, or fruit machines) and gave them restrictive control over betting.
  • The amendment further cemented the regions’ holding on betting as altruistic gatherings and First Nations’ groups were obliged to work under their power.
  • The extension of electronic gambling resulted in rise of the betting popularity in Canada and keeps on advancing at an energetic pace.

With some time more provinces were given the rights to run horse races, lotteries, video or fruit machines, establish casinos and play games there the way we know them nowadays.

The emerge of the land based casinos

The first clubhouses actually began in Europe. There have been the first gambling club in Europe for more than two hundred years! The main of them were found in the extravagant French resorts and German spas. With the presentation of roulette in the late eighteenth century, the clubs started to draw much more attention and were extensively developing.

At the point when a few European nations legitimized table gaming around 1930s, numerous new clubs were built up. Nonetheless, the social and lawful status of casinos changed from nation to nation, in view of the gaming laws at the time.

gambling canada

A few nations settled on an arrangement of nationalized clubhouse, while others made a more open and focused gaming market by permitting private administrators, etc. Beginning with smaller clubs that generally indulged the nearby market, gambling clubs with expansive premises with a specific allure to the sightseers rose there bit by bit.

As far as Canada is concerned, Ontario was primarily the place of the land based casino gambling a few years back, which is now known as Caesars Winds, casino in Windsor. Moreover, the Ontario casino rivals some high-end casinos on the Detroit border you’d find only in huge gambling areas of Sin City.

The rise of online casinos and poker rooms

It has been almost 20 years since the launch of the first online casino by Internet Casinos Inc. Currently, there are more than 2,000 gambling websites offering many game features, such as

  • casino games,
  • sports betting,
  • bingo,
  • poker and others.

A lot has changed on the Canadian gambling scene with the introduction of poker rooms and poker tournaments which is nowadays one of the most favorite ‘sports’ and the rise of the traditional featured online casino games, particularly

  • roulette
  • slots
  • blackjack
  • craps
  • baccarat, etc.

despite their ambiguous governmental status, however.

In December 2010, Loto-Quebec resource presented online poker and casino style games for its people, while in January 2013, Manitoba began to regulate online gaming, namely, poker and other casino style games.

BCLC, Loto-Quebec and Manitoba Lotteries joined the Canadian Poker Network, which is the first regulated poker network in North America, allowing players from these provinces to play at one table online.

Finding the best online casinos to play at has become easier too, you can also learn the rules, try free games to practice, and all that with the help of the Internet which was impossible in the past.

Online casinos in Canada are becoming a more popular way of entertainment and the local provinces are in hurry to legalize online gambling within their jurisdictions, hoping to get an additional source of income.

For example, in the northern state there is a law that allows the casino to provide its services to the local population, but on one condition, if the provider is received official permission from the authorities themselves. For example, Microgaming is officially able to provide its services to the Canadian players.

‘According to a survey in March 2010, conducted by Ipsos Reid, it was concluded that almost 77% of Canadian respondents believe online gambling legal, while 55% of Canadians support the idea that gambling can be permitted, but regulated by the state laws.’

Online casinos seek to attract more Canadians which is definitely a positive tendency. So, why not to earn some money and have fun? In addition, the control of the local authorities to protect the players deters them from the gambling addiction and save money in Canada, rather than transfer them to offshore companies.

Responsible gambling also becomes possible thanks to the appeals of the authorities to which the operators are forced to listen which definitely brings the Canadian online gambling to a different level.

Canada against game addiction

According to statistics:

  • every person at least once in his or her life played out at a gambling establishment,
  • every ten people on the planet,
  • and about 5-7% of the population of any city are considered pathological gamblers.

Everyone has his own excitement about playing. Various people send their excitement in a variety of directions: some build a career, others – private life. Due to gambling they can achieve heights in their chosen field. Unfortunately, there are people who are addicted to gambling which is considered to be a type of a psychological disorder and takes on the quality of life accordingly.

Historically, governments in many countries, including Canada, have adopted preventive measures for the protection of citizens against the temptation of the game. That’s why there are certain areas and even entire cities like Las Vegas or offshore Canadian gambling clubs identified for the gambling establishments only which is a forced restriction.

A special term “Gamblers” was invented in the pace of history to indicate people with specifically pathological addiction to casino games. The problem arises in the Western countries, including Canada, first of all. Gamblers are considered to be compered to drug addicts or alcoholics, and are forced to look for ways of treatment from gambling addiction which is, however, rather a controversial issue.

Canadian Online Gambling Regulation

In short, the government will have to spend a lot of time and effort trying to understand the need for a new gambling legislation that would legalize the activities of all providers of online casinos, both local and foreign.

‘While the Criminal Code of Canada does not deny Internet betting, it does preclude any sort of betting at a foundation not possessed or authorized by a common government.’ By Wikipedia

There are, however, from 1,200 to 1,400 seaward gambling web sites that make clubhouse game diversions and other betting exercises accessible to Canadians.

  • A study conducted in 2007 demonstrated that just around 2.3% of Canadians reported partaking in the Internet gambling regularly.
  • In 2012, however, Steve Ashton, Manitoba Lotteries Minister, evaluated that Manitoba speculators alone were burning through $37 million a year at illicit online casinos.

If compromise legislation is adopted, it will allow to replenish the state budget, as representatives of the virtual industry will be forced to pay significant taxes to the treasury of Canada. All Canadian players and game authorities can only find the time to think about the need to adopt such a law, which sooner or later will have to enter into force, or will develop irregular sphere.

A Case Study

A bright case in the history of online gambling in Canada occurred in 2004, when the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (“BCLC”) propelled Canada’s first lawful online clubhouse, Playnow.com, which, however, made legitimate web betting accessible to British Columbia residents.

gambling ca

For web betting operations within the Canadian borders, the Canadian powers are willing to arraign, however, have just done as such once, when British Columbia sued Starnet Communications International (“SCI”), a Delaware organization, kept running by Vancouver residents, where one of the organization’s servers was located.

The issue was that the court found that SCI had adequate contact with Canada to be indicted under its criminal code. On this very basis, SCI was fined $100,000 and relinquished about $4 million in benefits. As a result, it has moved its operations overseas.

(source “The Use of the Internet for Gaming” (PDF). Retrieved 9 April 2014.)

Canadian Criminal Code and modern gambling

Definitely, Canada is a nation in North America with nowadays legitimate betting. Canada is separated into regions and after that – urban communities. There are 11 states with betting offices in Canada which have 113 lawful betting offices accessible altogether.

Officially, the sorts of betting accessible in Canada are: gambling clubs, and horseracing tracks.

  • The biggest betting city in Canada is Edmonton, Alberta with 7 betting offices, 203 tables recreations, 4,252 gaming, opening, and feature poker machines.
  • The biggest of the gambling regions in Canada is Ontario with 30 betting offices, 638 tables amusements, 23,783 gaming, space, and feature poker machines.
  • The biggest gambling club in the whole nation of Canada is Casino de Montreal which is situated in Montreal, Quebec. Club de Montreal has 123 table diversions, 3,047 gaming and feature poker machines.
canadian flag

Despite the fact that gambling laws may vary from province to province and it is important to better inspect the territories and provinces independently to comprehend the regulation of betting in Canada, it is still well known for a remarkable approach structure to the gambling in general.

It contrasts from numerous worldwide gambling partners in a way:

  • The betting works solely under the control of the common and regional governments.
  • These administrations act in the limits of the Criminal Code to offer betting alternatives that the business sector and the political environment request.
  • Foundations, First Nations and private administrators likewise profit by betting in Canada by giving commonly approved betting exercises through operational plans.

Provincial electronic gaming policy in Canada makes a huge distinction between the slot machines as we know them and VLTs or Video Lottery Terminals which is also a thew.

All Gambling types legal nowadays in Canada

You can find a lot of both land based and online casinos registered and played in Canada nowadays. The most trusted always offer the wide assortment of casino games and game variations to any taste. A lot has changed since the first casino game introduction, and the list of legal gambling types is as follows:

  • Ticket lotteries,
  • horse racing,
  • charitable gaming (with bingo)

These are known to be currently legal in all ten provinces, Northwest Territories, Nunavut Territory and Yukon Territory, (however, not offered in all jurisdictions).

  • Casino-style gaming

This legal type of gambling is available in all provinces. New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador are exceptions.

  • Slot machines

Slot or fruit machines are traditionally found at racetracks or in casinos and are available in all provinces. New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador are the exceptions.

  • VLTs

Video Lottery Terminals are available in all provinces, but Ontario and British Columbia are exceptions.

  • Private bets between individuals

These interactions are available between people who are not engaged in any gambling business and are permitted under the Section 204 of the Canadian Criminal Code.

  • Internet Gambling

It is not actually featured as a legalized gambling offering in Canadian legislation.

The future of Canadian gambling

According to the global gaming forecast published by PwC, Canada may be ahead of the United States in the regulation of the industry of online casinos at the state level, while the cooperation between the provinces will continue to gain momentum.

These measures will stimulate further growth and attract more onshore and offshore providers in the Canadian region. In addition to local operators, the Canadian market of online games can attract US companies that control land-based casinos too.

Industry of gambling actually registered a significant increase in revenues and became remarkable over the last decade, which suggests that the regulation is more than necessary.

  • According to CA, online gamblers belong to the different groups by level of education, have an average household income of $ 74,600, and their average household debt is $ 78 056 for Canada.
  • The average age of online gamblers in Canada is 35.5 years. In addition, online gamblers use the Internet more often and with a variety of goals compared to their counterpart players at land based casinos.
  • In 2009, 78% of all online gamblers were men, while the average age of players was 45 years.
  • Before the online poker boom, in 2001, there were 612 entrants in the Main Event of the World Series of Poker among Canadians
  • According to research by Merrill Lynch  in 2006, the industry of Canadian online gaming is likely to reach its peak in 2015, and the revenue will grow to $ 528 billion.
canadian dollar


Canada has a rich gambling history and is nowadays one of the top gambling countries. Since the first gambling attempts, bans and permissions, Canada has gained a reputation and is famous for its unique approach structure to the gambling industry regulation.

In Canada, government officials are still arguing among themselves over the question whether there are legal online casinos in the country. That makes it hard for the potential gamblers from Canada to pick the right casinos to play at and bet.

Some believe that there are only legal casinos, so it’s possible to try any of them. Another – believe that there is a ban, which restricts local Canadian players. Anyway, both sides are partly right.

However, keeping pace with the innovation of the billion dollar gaming industry, some area clubs have even converged in a major manner to bait web activity and, henceforth, we can truly witness a huge number of new online casinos a.k.a. virtual or web casinos on the I-net which proves the Canadian virtual gambling keeps developing in a fast pace and has a bright future alongside the best popular casinos of the USA.

The relevant question, nevertheless, remains, whether to take measures to regulate the industry, federal and provincial governments, or the non-governmental organizations will make it.

Proponents argue that no change of the legal status of gambling in the Criminal Code of Canada, not without a stiff political opposition, whose economic interests would be threatened, and further liberalization of the industry will take place.

Anyway, Canadian gamers can nowadays enjoy the full spectrum of featured casino games both land based and online from the leading Canadian houses, as well as the smaller clubs due to the work out and experiences of the past centuries. Respect that, play and have fun!

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