Ontario Gambling Guide – Where to Gamble in Ontario

For the province of Ontario, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is in charge of gaming regulation, which covers the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporations (OLG) lotteries, casino gaming, charitable gaming, OLG charitable gaming, and internet gaming. The commission has been operating since 1988.

Casinos

There are currently 25 casinos and slot locations in Ontario that are regulated by the AGCO and managed by the OLG.
AGCO’s primary goal is to ensure that these casino operators comply with the law and that public interest is being maintained. The commission’s remit covers both online and offline casinos.
Any party that wishes to offer casino or slots to the public must have their application assessed by AGCO.
Currently, six different registration types exist in the province for those involved in the Ontario casino scene – operators, gaming-related supplier, non-gaming suppliers, gaming assistants (category 1 and 2), and trade unions.
If you are under the age of 19, you are not allowed to be present on a gaming site unless it is for employment purposes.
The first land-based casino in Ontario came about following the introduction of the Gaming Control Act of 1992.
Each gambling establishment in the province is owned (or partially owned) by the OLG. Currently, there are ten land-based casinos in the area that are entirely operated by the OLG:

  • OLG Casino Brantford
  • OLG Casino Sault Ste-Marie
  • Great Blue Heron Casino
  • OLG Casino Point Edward
  • OLG Casino Thousand Islands
  • OLG Casino Thunder Bay

A large portion of the revenue from those OLG-operated casinos is donated to various charities in the province.
All other casinos are privately owned and hold a license from the OLG. The most notable examples are the Caesars Windsor, the Niagara, and the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort. There are certain racetracks in the province that are allowed to offer some forms of table and slots games.
The very first tribal casino to in the region was opened in 1996 by the Mnjikaning First Nation tribe. For many years, the Ontario government sought to enter into a revenue-sharing agreement with the First Nation tribe.
Had it not been rejected, one such proposal would have seen the tribe receive CAD$2.5 billion over the course of two decades. In 2011, the First Nation and the OLG agreed on terms, with assurances that the tribe’s Casino Rama operator would not be hindered as the OLG modernized the casino sector.
Due to the province struggling with a budget deficit, a decision was made in 2012 to privatize OLG and develop more casinos in the area.
Initially, there were plans to develop another dozen casinos, to be completed by 2018. This move was forecasted to result in a further CAD$1.3 billion of provincial tax revenue each year. However, these plans were met with a lot of pushback, and many proposals were shut down by various city councils.
All this led to a change in their plans and revised their forecasted annual tax revenue to CAD$600 million. They also decided to forge about OLG privatization as it would be a very aggressive move that might not pay off.
While section 207 of the federal criminal code states that only a provincial government is allowed to be the supplier of a gambling service or facility in the country, there are a couple of minor exceptions.
PlayOLG is the online gaming platform operated by OLG, and it is the only regulated online casino in Ontario. There are various casino type games on offer, including table games (roulette, poker, blackjack, etc.) and slots.
You can purchase tickets for the OLG lottery through PlayOLG. This platform was launched in January 2015 after many years of debate.

Sports Betting

Ontario embraces sports betting more than most other Canadian provinces.
With an abundance of major teams in the region, including two NHL teams, an MLB, and NBA squad, as well as an MLS team and three different CFL teams, the province is a hotbed for sports. Ontario is also the largest province in Canada by population – it is home to 14 million people. As a result, sports betting is very popular in the area.
The sports betting structures implemented by the government are subpar. As a result, many people use online sports betting for both standardbred and thoroughbred racing held at the track, which opened in 1956, underwent significant renovations in the early 1990s, and is now comprised of three separate racetracks that utilize offshore betting platforms to fulfill their needs.
The primary sports betting system implemented in the province is called OLG Proline. It is somewhat archaic in the current climate as the selection process is completed by using a pencil and paper. You can place your bets at qualified retail stores throughout the province.
There is still no way to legally place sports bets online in Ontario. The OLG Proline online platform only allows you to look through the selections, but bets can only be placed in person.
You are not allowed to place bets on single games, and there are five categories provided for odds. These odds are not very competitive compared to what other offshore operators have on offer.
The topic of sports betting is still somewhat of a gray area in Ontario’s gambling regulations as none of the provincial laws account for online gambling.
The laws state that it’s illegal to wager with unlicensed operators. However, the majority of offshore sites where residents place bets hold licenses in some jurisdiction, which means that technically, they are not illegal. Consequently, gamblers playing on those sites are not subject to prosecution.

Animal Racing

While all other forms of gambling are regulated on a provincial level, horse racing is the only one that is still governed by a federal agency – the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency. This is due to section 204 of the Criminal Code, which states that pari-mutuel gambling is not considered to be a form of illegal betting.
Horse race betting is a popular gambling activity in the province, and the area is home to both horse tracks and racino.
The horse racing industry is overseen by the Ontario Racing Commission, which has been phasing out slots machines at these racing facilities. Most of these slots have already been removed, except for a few that boast significant customer bases.

Poker

All of the OLG-operated land-based casinos in Ontario feature poker rooms. The PlayOLG online casino platform also offers online poker.
Currently, five major casinos host poker rooms in Ontario:

  • Canadian National Exhibition Casino in Toronto
  • Casino Rama in Toronto
  • Elements Casino Brantford in Western Ontario
  • OLG Casino Point Edward in Western Ontario
  • OLG Casino Thunder Bay in Southwest Ontario

Lottery

As per the Gaming Control Act of 1992, AGCO is the regulator for all lottery games offered by the OLG. This Act is a critical piece of legislation for the lottery, and it was introduced to keep a reign on the gaming sector’s growth and cater for the opening of casinos in the province.
Ontario’s Gaming Control Commission enforced this act to ensure that everything was done above board. You need to be at least 18 years old to purchase a lottery ticket and at least 19 years old to buy one on an online platform.
The Ontario Lottery has been operating since 1975 following the passing of the Ontario Lottery Corporation Act. In 2007, the provincial government introduced new regulations to further protect players and ensure the system’s integrity.
Lottery modernization plans were announced by the government in 2010, which gave further power to the OLG, allowed for online ticket sales, and permitted land-based casinos to hold their own lotteries in specific circumstances. The implementation of these plans began in 2012, with online offerings as one of the first completed tasks.

Bingo

The AGCO oversees bingo in Ontario. A regular bingo license is needed if the prize pool for a single game does not exceed $5,500. A special (monster) bingo license is required if the prize pool for a single game is higher than $5,500.
Electronic bingo was first launched by OLG in 2005 and was initially introduced in six locations across the province.
There are currently six bingo halls located in Ontario:

  • The Bingo Connection in Burlington
  • Hometown Bingo in Cobourg
  • Golden Nugget Gaming Centre in Fort Erie
  • Golden Eagle Entertainment Facility in Kenora
  • Six Nations Bingo Hall in Ohsweken
  • Mountain Bingo in Thunder Bay

Conclusion

As the largest province in Canada, Ontario provides players an extensive range of gambling options.
While there is a limited sports betting offering, most other forms of gambling are fully catered for.
Land-based casinos and racetracks offer all kinds of table games, slots, and horse betting. The province’s chief gambling regulator, the OLG, also operates an online platform where gamblers can purchase lottery tickets as well as play table and casino games.