Talking about the history of gambling, both offline and on, in Canada can be a little tricky because of the way the legality of placing real money wagers varies from province to province. However, on this page, we're going to give it our best shot anyway!
Even though the native Aboriginals, First Nations and Metis of Canada were enjoying games of chance all the way back in the 1400s, all forms of gambling were outlawed in Canada in 1892. Perish the thought...
Gambling has always been extremely popular in Canada (and still is today!) and we have no doubt that there was plenty of illegal underground gambling going on back then, much like the USA's black market alcohol trade that flourished during prohibition.
Fortunately, since then, various elements of gambling have been decriminalised again – bingo and raffles became legal in 1900, 1969 saw lotteries being legalised and even land-based casinos were being built by the 1980s. It's astonishing to think that all gambling was illegal in Canada for just 8 years before lawmakers succumbed to the pressure to roll back legislation.
Today, thanks to additional laws passed in 1985, provinces decide which aspects of gambling they allow within their borders rather than the national government. Some have taken a much more progressive attitude towards gambling than others, and are reaping the benefits of doing so with shares of large profits, but every single one allows at least some form of gambling.
Currently there are more some 100+ casinos in Canada, although some are "racinos" (racetracks which also have casino games), with the majority located in large cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.
You won't find land-based venues in every province, however, with casino gaming still outlawed in Labrador, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and the Northwest Territories.
It's curious that these regions haven't adopted casino gaming, since other types of land-based gambling are legal there, and offline casino gaming is HUGELY popular in Canada.
Of course, because Canada is such a large country, there's still no guarantee that there will be a land-based venue where you can hit the slots anywhere near you. Unfortunately, there's not that much that can be done about that and you'll just have to hope that some plucky casino developer decides to build a location near you.
Of the true casino resorts in Canada, Niagara Falls's Casino Niagara and the Fallsview Casino Resort has to be the best known. It may not exactly be Las Vegas, but this complex is very popular and has come to be one of Canada's most recognised vacation destinations...although the falls might have had a little something to do with that as well!
Windsor Caesar's is another venue that's not only popular with those in Canada, but those from south of the border as well. It offers hundreds of different games, from table games to video slots and progressive jackpot games.
While land-based gambling in Canada will probably never rival Las Vegas or Atlantic City, we would be surprised if some province or other doesn't eventually manage to establish an extensive gambling complex complete with several casinos, entertainment, restaurants, shopping and so on.
None of the laws passed concerning gambling in Canada, from the Canadian Criminal Code in 1892 outlawing all gambling to the amendments made in 1970, have mentioned online gambling.
The Kahnawake reserve has established their own gaming regulatory body that issues licenses to different online casinos and poker rooms all over the world. In fact, under Canadian law, they probably shouldn't be doing this (and lawmakers have said as much!) but they've never faced legal action for doing so.
Currently – with the exception of some sites operated from within Indian reserves – there are no online casinos operating from within Canada. Casino site owners have previously gotten into trouble by running on Canadian soil, as doing so is currently illegal.
But, given the huge profitability of online gambling, we can't see that being the case for long. In the next few years we expect that at least one province will take steps to legalise online gambling, which will probably be followed by a mad rush of other progressive provinces doing the same thing.
With studies conducted by Statistics Canada reporting that 70% of Canadians have gambled, with the majority of these gambling at least once in the past year, it's clear that gambling (online and in land-based venues) for real money isn't going away any time soon.
When it comes to online gambling, as is the case in most countries, slots are probably the most popular form of gaming enjoyed. That's also true in land-based venues, with poker and table games taking a back seat to slots.
It's hard to say what the future of gambling in Canada will bring, but we predict that provinces will begin to regulate online gambling and operate state-maintained casino sites on the web. In addition, it's very likely that even more land-based venues will continue to be set up.
On the other side of things, we have no doubt that we'll continue to see casino software producers developing new games, porting more for use on mobile devices and maybe even using virtual reality and 3D technology to offer slots play that's even more immersive and exciting.
In other words, the future is bright if you're a fan of slot machines living in Canada!