The History of Casino Gambling in Canada

History of casino gambling in Canada

History of casino gambling in Canada

Canada is considered a country with some of the most relaxed online gambling laws in the world. Admittedly, most of that comes from grey zones which Canadians and offshore operators have successfully been able to exploit via loopholes. However, things were not always as rosy in the North American country.

In this article, we will look back at Canada’s casino gambling history, fast forward to the modern-day, and look at what the future might have in store for Canadians and gambling. Let’s start with Canada’s gambling history from the beginning:

Canadians Gambled from the Start

Long before the concept of a casino became a reality, Canadians were gambling. For thousands of years, the indigenous people of Canada gambled. They did so by playing Slahal (or Lahal), a game featuring sticks and bones. Of course, while the game had spiritual importance to the Chinook and other peoples, attendees were theoretically allowed to “bet” on the winning team, or other aspects of the game.

Fast forward hundreds of years, and you come to John Cabot. In 1497, he landed in Canada, and it is a fair bet that his sailors brought with them cards and dice games. However, there is precious little evidence to suggest that the indigenous people these explorers encountered on Canada’s east coast ever caught sight of the games.

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The Dark Ages

What happened next is not recorded in the history books. Early settlers in Canada will unquestionably have been playing gambling games such as cards and dice. French colonists in the 1700s and 1800s will surely have brought early casino games such as roulette, baccarat, and a primitive form of blackjack with them, especially as these were becoming increasingly popular amongst the aristocracy in Europe at the time.

We do not know how widespread these gambling games in Canada were in the 1800s. However, we can guess that they must have been commonplace enough because, in 1892, Canada introduced its Criminal Code which forbade gambling. Like so many things during the Victorian era – gambling was considered “inappropriate” for a civilised society.

An Up and Down Century

The ban on gambling games did not last long. The Klondike Gold Rush and Yukon Gold Rush of 1896 saw a card game travel north from the United States, known as Faro. By 1900, some games of luck were permitted. This predominantly meant that bingo and raffles were permitted. The critical thing to note here is that only games played for charitable causes were tolerated. That changed in 1910 when horse racing was allowed, and again in 1925, when special events were permitted to host gambling games.

Lotteries were one of the few widely popular gambling games. By 1969, lottery games were even used to fund the 1974 Olympics. Throughout this entire time, the Mohawk Territory had been offering gambling games in its dominion and also started to regulate them. Today, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission can be regarded as one of the first licensing jurisdictions in the world. This was in part due to a 1985 amendment to the Criminal Code which saw Canada shift gambling laws from a state to federal jurisdictions. Naturally, each province and region took it upon themselves to determine their laws on gambling.

Preparing an application for a Client Provider Authorization (CPA)
The steps required by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission to prepare a Client Provider Authorization (CPA)

Enter Online Gambling

The first commercial casino to open in Canada did so in Winnipeg in 1989. Shortly afterwards, Montreal opened its first casino just four years later. While land-based casinos were tolerated in some parts of Canada, and the laws of the Canadian Criminal Code for gambling did not extend to the reservations, the Canadian casino gambling industry was about to be rocked.

Online casino gambling formally arrived in 1996. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission was on hand to start doling out licenses to these new enterprises. With opening hours, stays at hotels and waiting times all rescinded, online casino gambling quickly took over from land-based gaming.

Canada’s Gambling Laws Today

Today, you will find that online casinos offer bonuses, a wealth of games and all in a secure and safe environment to many Canadians. Officially, each region has its own laws regarding online casinos. Canadians are only permitted to gamble at a federal level, at casinos licensed by their territory, if they allow online gambling, that is. However, Canadian gambling laws do not prohibit Canadians from playing at offshore casinos.

Technically, an offshore casino is any casino site which is not licensed out of your province or region. This can be extended to those sites which are licensed out of the UK, Malta, Gibraltar, Curacao and elsewhere. Canada does not crackdown on its citizens and residents visiting these international sites. The legal grey zone is one of the most flexible in the world, ensuring that Canada is one of the top places in the world to live if you wish to gamble at online casinos.

Author: Jeff Grant (info)

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