The History of Gambling in Canada

Canada is a popular place to gamble. The gambling industry in Canada generated revenue of over US$12 Billion in 2021. More than 18 million Canadians over 15 reported that they gambled in some form that year. Gambling wasn’t always in high demand. Canada’s gambling history is not a good one.

Slahal and Indigenous Gambling

Casinos In Canadaย is similar to gambling in Ancient Rome or Ancient Greece. It has roots that go back thousands of years. We first hear about gambling in Canada from written records of the country’s native people, which dates back well before Canada was “discovered.” These records show that Slahal, a simple bone game, was very popular among the tribes.

Slahal, a simple game often played with the shinbones of deer, is very straightforward. Two teams will face off against each other with bones and one without. The bones-holding teams would exchange which hand was holding the bones while loudly singing songs to distract their opponent. Their job was to figure out which bones were in which hands. Many indigenous tribes still play it.

Canada makes gambling illegal.

Are you a believer in the butterfly effect? One small event can lead to a much larger and more complicated affair. As a tiny change in British law in the 14th Century could inadvertently make gambling illegal in Canada for hundreds of years, I hope this is true.

Richard III, the ruler of the British realm in the 14th Century, was the monarch. Richard III noticed that his archers were more inclined to leave their posts to play dice. Fearing that this might lead to weakness in his defense, the monarch swiftly moved to ban all dice games in Britain.

One hundred years later, in 1497, John Cabot, an explorer, “discovered” Canada. He claimed it for the British. Canada was also made to comply with the law of Richard III, which was still in force in Britain. Soon, all games of chance in Canada would be illegal. But, as is the case often when vice is prohibited, there was a boom in underground casinos.

Canada is legalizing gambling. Eventually!

Canada gained independence from Britain in 1867. However, there was no push to legalize gambling in Canada immediately. The Canadian Criminal Code (1892) would codify gambling’s illegal status. But, gambling became legalized in Canada slowly as the 20th Century began.

The government realized the potential economic benefits of gambling by 1910. Pari-mutual betting was allowed by an amendment to the Criminal Code. That means “betting amongst yourself.” That is a system where all bets are combined. The government also allowed some games of luck, including bingo and raffles, which were used to aid charities and churches. The restrictions were eased further in 1925 when fairs and exhibitions were allowed to host gambling events.

Canada’s gambling laws would not change much over the next 40 years. However, an amendment to the criminal code could bring about a sea change. In 1969, lotteries were made legal. Lotteries were legalized in 1969 by both the local and national governments. That allowed them to realize the potential of lotteries to fund their projects. Five years later, the government used a lottery to support the Montreal Summer Olympics.

The end of restrictions being loosened was not reached by allowing lotteries. The ten Canadian regions were granted the right in 1970 to qualify, license, and supervise gambling within their territory. Legalizing gambling in Canada almost became a reality with the advent of 1985. Single-game betting was still prohibited. The first of many casinos operated by the government, Crystal Casino, opened in Winnipeg in 1989.

Online Gaming Takes Off!

Canada was the first country to offer online gambling, as technology made it possible. The Mohawk Territory Kahnawake Gaming Commission (MTKGC) was established in 1996. That was the first international gaming commission to allow online betting. That is remarkable, considering gambling in Canada was almost entirely illegal two decades ago.

The new era of gambling in Canada was born with the introduction of online gambling. Canada would become the eighth-largest gambling market in the world. Online casinos became more popular with the advent of smartphones and high-speed internet. In 2021, single-game betting was finally made illegal by the government. Canadians now have many options for visiting a casino online or offline.’s lobby is the best place to start a new membership. New members will enjoy a very appealing Welcome Package.


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