Land-based gambling isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you mention Canada, but the truth is that America’s northern neighbor boasts a very diverse real-money gaming industry. Canadians enjoy access to dozens of brick-and-mortar casinos, racinos, and gambling parlors, and in some provinces, you can even find gambling machines in restaurants and bars. Canadians also have unrestricted access to a wide range of internet gambling sites as well as a few government-operated platforms that aren’t available anywhere else.
Canadian casinos overview
The history of gambling in Canada dates back to the country’s Native American inhabitants. This tradition was embraced by the first settlers, who enjoyed cards and dice. However, in 1892, the Canadian government issued a blanket ban on all forms of gambling. This total prohibition didn’t last long. In 1900, the authorities legalized charitable bingo and raffles, and in 1925, fairs and exhibitions gained the right to host gambling events.
The real breakthrough came in 1969 when the Canadian Criminal Code was amended to allow both the federal and provincial governments to establish lotteries to raise funds for special projects. In 1985, provincial governments received permission to organize other forms of gambling in their jurisdictions, which eventually gave rise to contemporary regulatory bodies, such as the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.
The first Vegas-style casinos emerged in the early 90s. The relationship between those gambling venues and the government varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In some provinces, casinos are operated by government-run corporations, such as British Columbia Lottery Corporations. In other areas, private companies, such as Hard Rock International or Century Casinos, operate the casinos.
Nowadays, Canada is home to 200+ licensed gambling establishments that operate 76,000+ slots and 2,200+ table games. In some jurisdictions, casino-style gambling is limited to government-operated VLTs, which are functionally similar to slots. These machines are located at dedicated gambling venues as well as brasseries and bars.
Provinces and territories with casinos
Traditional casinos are located in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. The list of provinces that allow VLTs includes Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. While Ontario and British Columbia don’t operate any VLTs, they do allow other kinds of Electronic Gaming Devices, or EGDs. In addition, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec are home to several racinos, i.e., racetracks with licensed casino facilities.
The largest gambling hotspot on the map of Canada is Ontario, which houses 72 gambling establishments.
Caesars Windsor is the most impressive casino in this province. Owned by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and operated by Caesars Entertainment, the property is located on Windsor’s riverfront near the Canadian end of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. It attracts about six million visitors a year. The casino part of Caesars Windsor boasts 9,290 m2 of total gaming space and gives its customers access to 2,600 slots and 95 table games. The hotel part consists of two towers—a 23-story tower which was built in 1998 and a 27-story tower added in 2008. Caesars Windsor also operates the sportsbook in Canada, which launched in 2006.
Other noteworthy casinos in Ontario include Casino Niagara (Niagara Falls), Casino Rama Resort (Orillia), and Elements Casino Brantford (Marie).
Outside Ontario, you’ll find plenty of casinos in Alberta (Grey Eagle Resort and Casino, River Cree Resort and Casino, Lloydminster Regional Entertainment Complex, 59 venues in total) and British Columbia (River Rock Casino Resort, Hard Rock Casino Vancouver, Cascades Casino Resort Langley, 37 venues in total). Several important gambling establishments are also located in Quebec (Casino Montreal, Casino Lac-Leamy at Hilton Lac-Leamy, Casino de Charlevoix).
Types of gambling establishments in Canada
As briefly outlined above, the Canadian land-based gambling landscape is complicated. The casinos that are roughly equivalent to commercial US establishments can be divided into various subcategories based on ownership. Some venues are owned and operated by the local authorities, while others are owned by government-sanctioned corporations and operated by private companies.
Some businesses are even privately owned but operate gambling machines that belong to the state. Fortunately, from the customer’s standpoint, this isn’t important—if a casino offers slots or table games, guests can play them regardless of the owner.
The only significant point of distinction is between gambling facilities that offer real slots and venues that are required to stick to VLTs and other EGDs. In some jurisdictions, namely in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, gambling enthusiasts enjoy access to both options.
If you go looking for an authentic casino experience in one of the aforementioned provinces, you should focus on Vegas-style casinos that give you access to Vegas-style games. This also applies to gambling facilities operated by Canadian race tracks—some of them offer slots, while others provide VLTs.
Facts about casinos in Canada
– Not all Canadian casinos are operated by private businesses such as Hard Rock Incorporated or Caesars Entertainment. Many high-profile venues are owned and operated by government-run corporations because provincial governments enjoy almost complete control over casino-style gambling in the country.
– Casino-style gambling in Canada isn’t limited to high-profile venues such as Casino Windsor or River Cree Resort and Casino. In some jurisdictions, small businesses like bars and restaurants are allowed to operate Video Lottery Terminals. This is part of an effort to combat the prevalence of illegal video poker machines and slots, which were fairly common in the 90s.
– Many Canada-based racetracks operate gambling facilities and can be classified as racinos. This includes high-profile horse racing venues, such as Hippodrome de Montreal (formerly Blue Bonnets Raceway), Ajax Downs, Fraser Downs, and Evergreen Park.
Online casinos in Canada
Canada residents have plenty of online gambling options to choose from. They can pursue their hobby using government-operated sites, such as Loto-Quebec (Quebec) or PlayNow (British Columbia), or go for commercial platforms that serve customers from all over the world. While these platforms can be considered as operating in a legal grey area, no provisions in the Canadian Criminal Code indicate that using them constitutes a criminal offense or is otherwise illegal.
Canada is also home to the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, a globally-recognized licensing authority operating from within the Mohawk territory of Kahnawake. The list of operators that offer online gambling services under a license issued by the Commission includes Baytree Limited, Broadway Gaming, Fresh Horizons, TLF Global Limited, Paxson Marketing, and Top Tech Media, just to name a few. The sites they run tend to be small or medium-sized, although there are a few exceptions to this rule, such as Spin Palace or River Belle Casino.