The History of the Casino Industry in Canada

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The concept of gambling in Canada pre-dates the 16th century. Way back in 1497, a man named John Cabot made landfall on the east coast of Canada, discovering a population of settlers that were hooked on playing games of chance. Cabot himself investigated Canada’s fascination with games that involved an element of luck rather than skill and found that people had been gambling in the nation since 6,000 B.C.

Of course, it wasn’t playing cards and casino chips that were used back then, but the basic premise was the same. Cabot discovered that people gambled with pebbles and sticks in a game known as "Sla-hal", which was deemed to have deep spiritual importance amid local communities. Fast forward to 1892 and the Canadian Criminal Code was first enacted, which was based around English common law. Although this code tolerated certain aspects of gambling in Canada, revealed that a key amendment was passed in 1910, permitting pari-mutuel betting, where the winners share the stakes of losing punters and a portion of the stakes are given back to the race track.

The most important amendments to the code were made in 1970, including the devolution of power to provinces, giving them the power to license and regulate gambling, if they so wished. This freedom has helped foster a multi-billion-dollar industry in the last few decades. Canada welcomed its first land-based commercial casino back in 1989 in Winnipeg, closely followed by another establishment in 1993 in Montreal. Each province has also been permitted to oversee the operation of provincial lotteries, with several religious and charitable organizations benefitting from these increasingly busy games.

Since then, the number of land-based casinos in Canada has risen through the years. You only have to look at a recent renovation by of the Windsor Hotel & Casino to discover how valuable the industry now is to the country. The renovations cost circa CA$439 million, which is actually a drop in the ocean compared to the revenue generated by the casino over the years.

The next wave for the casino industry in Canada was based around the explosion of the internet. The internet has seen the creation of thousands of online casino platforms, operating from all four corners of the globe under multiple online gambling jurisdictions. In Canada, online gambling – commonly known as iGaming – has been something of a grey area. The government has not provided concrete legislation to state the legality of iGaming, nor has it sought to outlaw it. Therefore, many Canadians have chosen to play their favorite casino games at offshore platforms through the years.

According to, the creation of the Kahnawake Gaming Commission has had a transformative impact on Canada’s iGaming scene. The commission acts as the country’s governing body on iGaming and is authorized to dish out operating licenses to websites to underline their legitimacy and transparency to operate in Canada. Sites regulated and licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission are also the most secure options for iGamers, with their sensitive personal and financial details stored safely away from the prying eyes of cyber-criminals.

What does all of this mean? Since 1910, Canada’s casino industry has evolved from one that was only tolerated socially through restrictive measures into a business that is considered a socially acceptable leisure activity.


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