Gambling in Canada: History of Canadian Casinos, Legislation and Gambling Scene

Posted: May 12, 2022 15:35 Category: Casino Games Strategy Guides , Sports Betting Guides , Sportsbetting , Posted by Content Team

Gambling in Canada has been popular since its introduction by the first settlers. As a result, Canada is a friendlier place for gambling enthusiasts and businesses than the United States. Moreover, the entire country appears to be supportive of legalized gambling! This has facilitated the expansion of everything from land-based casinos to today’s online gaming phenomenon, with even government-sponsored websites joining the popular trend.

Our comprehensive guide covers everything a Canadian gambling enthusiast needs to know; legislation, online casino options, and tax obligations, so read on to find out. 

The Beginning of Canadian Casinos: Brief History

The first mention of gambling in Canada dates back to the 1400s when natives were playing Slahal, a game still being played today. However, it was very primitive as natives used sticks and animal bones for betting and fun. 

It passed centuries before the first casinos were established. Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall is Canada’s oldest casino, which opened in 1971. It is named after Gertie Lovejoy, the most famous Gold Rush dancer. With a diamond between her two front teeth, she inspired the daily visitors to show up at the casino. Patrons at Gertie’s can place bets, drink alcohol, and watch live entertainment all in the same room. The casino features blackjack, poker, roulette, and more than 60 slot machines. 

However, there was no drastic shift in Canada’s gambling scene until 1985, when changes in the law undoubtedly paved the way for developing today’s multibillion-dollar industry. 

The Legality of Gambling in Canada Scene: The History of Legislation

Canada ranks eighth in popularity for gambling worldwide, but as we already stated, it has not always been such a convenient place for gamblers. Even though gambling has become ingrained in Canadian culture, this was a time when religion and strict morals were weighing heavily on the minds of legislators. 

The first gambling law in Canada dates back to 1338, when Richard III banned several dice games in England because he believed they distracted his soldiers and wasted their time. 

In 1892, the newly independent state criminalized all forms of gambling across the country. Unfortunately, this backfired because it allowed underground criminal networks to establish and operate illegal dens.

In 1910, restrictions were eased for the general population by allowing horse racing and betting. A few years later, games of chance such as bingo became legal, but only for charity. 

Interestingly, the first Canadian lottery was held to aid the Montreal Olympics in 1974. Then, step by step, Canada understood the value of lotteries and betting, allowing gambling events at state fairs and town exhibitions. 

Finally, the government passed a new law in 1985 that allowed gambling to be transferred from state to federal jurisdiction. These legislative changes granted provinces the authority to enact their own gambling regulations.

This allowed for the establishment of hundreds of land-based casinos across the country. Each province has its own set of gambling laws. Some Canadian casinos are owned by the state in some areas, while others are private, which we will discuss now. 

Gambling Laws in Canadian Provinces

Canada has ten provinces, and we will now focus on gambling laws and types of games in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia.

Each province is a self-governing entity, with the federal government granting power to the various lieutenant governors. This section will look at the current gambling laws in these provinces, focusing on how they affect the average gamer.

Ontario Gambling Regulations

Ontario has the most people of any Canadian province, and over 90% of residents in Southern Ontario live within one hour of a legal gaming establishment. So it’s not surprising that 82.9% of adults in the province gamble at least once during the year. Besides, Ontario and its capital, Toronto, often host iGaming events in America. If you want to be a part of a future gatherings, try one of these legal forms of gambling:

  • Casinos: There are over 25 land-based casinos in Ontario, ranging from privately owned to government-run charitable establishments.
  • Slot machines: Slot machines can also be found at racetracks and other locations and casinos. Ontario has more of these gaming devices than any other Canadian province.
  • Horse racing: Standardbred, Quarter horse, and thoroughbred racing are available at racetracks from Ottawa to Fort Erie. 
  • Sports Betting Players: You can use the Pro-Line service to place bets on various sports online or at land-based lottery centers. 
  • Lottery: Ontario has one of the largest lottery networks in North America. In addition to national lotteries, you can participate in provincial lotteries run by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation
  • Charitable gaming: Raffles and bingo are examples of charitable gaming. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is in charge of licensing such games and managing several eBingo websites. Along with various lottery games, bingo generates the most gaming revenue for Ontario.

Quebec Gambling Regulations

This predominantly French-speaking province has offered legal games of chance, and the number of options has grown. Residents can gamble online at the website, including the government-owned Espacejeux. However, the Quebec government has announced plans to block any online gaming website that is not approved and licensed by Loto-Quebec.

Here are the most easily accessible forms of legal gambling:

  • Casinos: Quebec has nine popular land-based casinos with both locals and residents from neighboring states. The Quebec Alcohol, Racing, and Gaming Commission oversee all activities.
  • Racing of Horses: There is currently only one race track in the state, and it primarily offers harness racing. However, bettors can select their favorite horses at several off-track facilities in addition to placing wagers at the track.
  • Lottery: Many lottery games are available, ranging from Lotto Max and Quebec Extra to Tout ou Rien. The lottery is held daily, and it is the province of Quebec’s oldest form of legal gambling.
  • Non-Profit Gaming: Loto-Quebec regulates and licenses all charitable gaming in the province, from bingo and Kinzo to raffles.

Nova Scotia Gambling Regulations

Except for agriculture and fishing, Nova Scotia is known for a decent gaming scene, with 87% of adults playing chance games at least once a year. Throughout the province, the following types of legal gaming are available:

  • The Lottery and Charitable Gaming: The Atlantic Lottery Corporation manages video and ticket lotteries and other charitable games like bingo.
  • Casinos: Nova Scotia has two brick-and-mortar casinos, both government-owned. Casino Nova Scotia has Halifax and Sydney locations, offering traditional slots and table games. According to the Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corporation, the average payback percentage for slots is 92%.
  • Racing of Horses: Inverness Raceway, Northside Downs, and Truro Raceway are the three legal horse racing tracks in Nova Scotia. There are also a few for those who want to bet but can’t make it to the track.
  • Gambling on the internet: Although the province does not have its own gaming websites, residents and tourists can still access thousands of offshore casinos and sportsbooks without fear of legal repercussions.

British Columbia Gambling Regulations

The British Columbia Lottery Corporation has provided gaming to British Columbia residents for more than three decades, and the available gaming options have grown over time. Here are the legal forms of gaming open in British Columbia:

  • Lottery: Since 1985, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation has provided government-sanctioned games. To purchase a ticket, players must be 19 or older, and winners have one year from the draw to claim their prize.
  • Horse racing: Fraser Downs is the only active horse racing track in British Columbia. In addition, off-track simulcasts are available at over 15 locations across the province.
  • Casinos: British Columbia has over 15 casinos in the province, with only one owned by the First Nations. Hard Rock Casino Vancouver has the most gaming space, with 1,000 slots, 70 table games, a poker room, and eight baccarat tables in a high-limit room.
  • Non-profit: Non-profit organizations may apply for a license to hold raffle tickets, bingo, poker, wheel of fortune, and social occasion casinos.
  • Gambling on the internet:, which the British Columbia Lottery Corporation owns, is the only regulated and entirely legal gambling platform in BC. The website, which debuted in 2004, was the first online casino in Canada.

The Most Popular Types of Gambling in Canada

These are the 4 most popular types of gambling in Canada and their popularity is growing due the development of new technologies.

Slot Machines

Slot machines are probably the most popular casino games ever. Online slots enabled developers to use their imaginations to create even more unique slot games. Furthermore, you can now select from different slot machine types depending on your preferences. The following are the most popular types of slots in Canada:

  • Classic 3-reel slot machines are based on the original physical slot machines. Connect the symbols along the top, middle, or bottom line to win your prize.
  • Most online slots have abandoned the traditional 3-reel design and switched to 5-reel slots. Players welcomed the increased number of reels because it provided more payout opportunities and the opportunity to win larger cash prizes.
  • Progressive slots are games in which the jackpot value increases by a small amount each time you do not win anything during the game.
  • Mobile slots are slot games specifically designed for use on smartphones and tablets. Because most gamers prefer to play on the move, they are most likely the most popular slots in Canada.
  • Mega Spin Slots are designed for players who want to play more than one game simultaneously. Mega spin slots allow players to play multiple games on the same screen simultaneously, allowing them to keep track of each one. Progressive jackpot features are also standard in games.
  • Multipliers are features in slot games that allow players to multiply their winnings by a predetermined number. Multi-line slots provide players with more chances to win. Paylines can be straight, diagonal, or zigzag.


Blackjack has a profound impact on popular culture and millions of people have recognized the importance of number 21. However, online casinos usually offer players different types of blackjack games. The difference is usually in the rules, but the basic principle is always the same.

Here are two blackjack variants Canadians can enjoy:

  • Classic blackjack – This is undoubtedly the most popular form of blackjack played in Canada. Its rules are easy, and the edge of the house is low. The game is also considered more sociable than poker. Players face a dealer trying to reach 21 or closest without going any further. This guy is known as American Blackjack.
  • European blackjack – in this variant, the dealer will not receive his blank card until the player has made a decision on how to play the cards dealt to him. In general, it comes with more gameplay restrictions than classic blackjack.


Poker is another popular casino game played not only in Canada but also around the world. There are several game variations, but Texas Hold’Em seems to be the most popular among Canadians. To enjoy, players can select from a variety of poker games. Classic video poker variations include:

  • Jacks or Better
  • Deuces Wild
  • Multi-hand variations
  • Joker Poker
  • Bonus Poker Variations


You immediately see the casino’s flashing lights when you hear the word “roulette.” Roulette was invented in France more than three centuries ago, and the game has become a trendy casino game in Canada. It is especially popular because of its elegance and sophistication and the possibility of large payments. The game is available in two main variations:

  • American roulette – there is an additional number zero in this roulette variant’s playing field. This reduces the players’ chances of winning and increases the casino’s profits.
  • French roulette – this is one of the oldest forms of roulette, hence the name “queen of the casino game.” This variation has only one zero, but there are fewer betting options, so it is more tempting for players.


Baccarat is a comparative card game between players and “bankers” becoming increasingly popular in Canada. The game has three possible outcomes: the player wins, the banker wins, or a draw. Aces are counted as one point in the game, while 2 to 9 offer the value of attributes. However, 10, the king, jack, and queen are worthless.

There are different types of baccarat to choose from:

  • Punto banco (North American baccarat)
  • Baccarat Chemin
  • Baccarat Bank

Responsible Gambling and Banking Options in Canadian Casinos

Because the government primarily runs Canadian casinos, they have embraced more responsible gambling than their American counterparts.

Responsible gambling means not using gambling as a source of income but just betting with money you can afford to lose and making breaks. Setting limits is easier to do online because many gambling websites have built-in tools that allow gamblers to set limits directly on the platform.

For example, in an online casino, you can say, “Okay, I just want to gamble for three hours today.” Then, all they have to do is put that time on the website, and after two hours, the website will notify you when the daily limit is reached. Moreover, you include 24-hour cooling-off periods, where you can block yourself from making full use of the platform and thus ensure responsible gambling.

As for the banking methods, Canadian online casinos generally offer six main techniques: credit cards, e-wallets, bank transfers, prepaid cards, mobile payments, and instant banking, with a range of choices provided for each technique. 

Also, Canadians and their visitors to Canada can process cryptocurrency transactions at almost no bank fee. And some gambling websites even work exclusively in cryptocurrency. 

Canada gambling scene is very attractive to gamers worldwide as this overview suggests. Whether you want to start a business, spin the ball or hit the table, Canada is a place to be.

Gambling in Canada FAQs

What is the legal gambling age in Canada?

Online casinos accept legal age players in their respective jurisdictions. In Canada, the legal gambling age is 19 in most provinces and 18 in three. If you are caught playing at a casino while under 18, you will be banned immediately.

Is it necessary to pay tax for gambling winnings in Canada?

You do not have to pay any taxes on your winnings from online gambling in Canada. Do online Canada casinos report their profits to the Canadian Revenue Agency? No, because in most cases, casino winnings are not considered taxable income.

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