Gambling History in Canada

Did you know that gambling is one of the largest branches of entertainment in Canada? It attracts millions of players across the country. Furthermore, the number of local casino players grows each year.

But why is gaming so popular in Canada? Well, the answer lies in the history of gambling in Canada. That history is quite rich. An abundance of venues has been working in the region for years. They are all catering to customers that want to experience prime casino entertainment. In this article, we will present you with a detailed overview of Canadian gambling history, including:

  • The old history of casinos
  • Contemporary gaming in the country
  • Interesting historical facts
  • Land-based and online venues

If you want to see how it’s done in Canada, sit tight. Our review of the history of gambling in Canada begins with a couple of frequently asked questions that we hope to answer in detail right here in this article.

Page contents

Old Gambling History

Old Gambling HistoryGambling in Canada is far from being a new form of entertainment. Did you know that games of luck and chance have been around for centuries? Yup, they were here long before digital casinos appeared.

The first record of gambling in the region dates from 1497. John Abbot was the one to discover native tribes that enjoyed playing games of chance. Of course, back then, it was still very primitive. The games that the tribes played were far from the traditional versions that we play today.

But as you can see, gambling was a popular form of entertainment even before legislation and the formation of Canada as an independent country.

Times when All Gambling Was Banned

The Canadian casino scene had its ups and downs. Perhaps you did not know but gambling was not always approved in the region. For instance, in 1892, all forms of gambling were banned. The Canadian Criminal Code prohibited all types of gambling activities because the government considered it to be inappropriate.

But that did not last long. In 1900, the law accepted some variations of games of luck. Bingo and raffles were first to return, but only for charities. A decade later, people got the right bet on horse racing again. Finally, 15 years after that, exhibitions and fairs received permissions to host gambling events.
Gambling history in Canada - Time Line

Lotteries were very prolific, and the government changed the law again in 1969. After the changes in regulation, lotteries served as platforms for funding specific projects. The first example happened in 1974 when locals organized a lottery event to gather funds for the Olympics.

Historical Facts

Well, as we mentioned above, one of the first regulators was the Mohawk Territory Kahnawake Gaming Commission. Guess what is so specific about it? As it is still fully operational, this makes the Canadian regulator the first-ever online casino authority in the world!

Before Europeans arrived in Canada, native people played games of luck, as we mentioned. The games that they played involved gaming sticks and the name of one popular game was Slahal or Stickgame.

There is also one fact from the Klondike Gold Rush. With the discovery of gold in Yukon in 1896, people rushed to the region. During that period, one of the most popular games was Faro, a card game which the Americans brought. Unfortunately, once the Goldrush ended, so did Faro disappear in Canada.

Modern Gambling History in Canada

Modern Gambling History in CanadaThe recent history of gambling in Canada has ties with both land-based casinos and online gaming sites. Did you know that the Canadian casino scene is one of the wealthiest markets for casino entertainment today? Yes, thousands of venues exist to provide entertainment to casino enthusiasts. And trust us, Canadian players love playing casino games! Their choices often include traditional casino games, such as Roulette, Blackjack, Poker, and Baccarat. However, when online casinos first introduced the virtual versions of the classic games, the audience loved it.

Thanks to the virtual venues, players in the country have access to a broader choice of titles and tables to sit at. Every new digital gaming hall that appears on the market brings a wealth of new content for the players. But that doesn’t mean land-based venues are not accessible in the country. Some land-based casinos are among the most popular tourist attractions, with thousands of visitors each year!

Online Gambling History

Online Gambling HistorySo when did the story of online gambling begin? The correct answer is - in 1996. The first official digital gaming venue offered only a handful of digital casino games, but it was a success, nonetheless. This year is taken as the starting point for online gambling because it’s the year when several online casinos launched. One of the first and most popular casinos is InterCasino, a site that still works to this day. Did you know that in the same year, the first-ever online gambling regulator emerged on the Canadian market? At the time, the Mohawk Territory Kahnawake Gaming Commission was already there to supervise and regulate all classic casino game activities. At first, gaming online was an odd idea for many players, especially when it came to casinos. Punters had to get used to the idea of opening browsers instead of walking into some of the famous land-based venues.

However, that quickly changed. Only a few years later, the digital casino industry had its well-deserved expansion. After 2000, dozens of venues launched their digital versions, establishing one of the most prolific industries in the world.

History of Land-Based Casinos

History of Land-Based CasinosIn 1985, the government passed a new law that enabled gambling to move from the state to federal jurisdiction. This made room for hundreds of land-based casinos all over the country. The new law helped owners establish their venues in different provinces.

Each province has a different set of laws for gambling. In some areas, the state owns some casinos, while in other regions they are private. In any case, they are very popular even today.

Present and Future of Gambling in Canada

Present and Future of GamblingToday, Canada is one of the most productive gaming markets in the world. It generates billions of dollars each year. International software developers sign deals to distribute their content to this market because they know how prolific this market is. For casino entertainment, Canada is one of the most important regions in the world.

Don’t you find that impressive? Diversity in content and offers make Canada a fertile field for everyone interested in this kind of entertainment. There is no doubt the popularity and strength of Gambling in Canada will continue to grow in the upcoming future.

Recommended online casinos in Canada


As you can see, the history of gambling in Canada is quite rich. Today, gamers enjoy both classic games as well as brand-new innovative online products. More importantly, Canadians have always been open to innovation and creativity when it came to gaming.

Even before Canada was formed as an independent country, people played various types of games of chance. The popularity of gambling was not affected even during the Criminal Code ban in 1892.

Moreover, local players enjoy playing in both brick-and-mortar venues just as much as in digital casinos. Casino gaming is a source of great fun for everyone in Canada!

Lucas Goldberg
Lucas, a seasoned site editor at CasinoCanada, boasts a decade-long journey in the gambling industry with a focus on providing players with meticulous reviews and insights of online games and casinos.
Site Editor
University of Toronto
Bachelor of Arts in Communications, Digital Media, and Journalism, PlayTech Analytics career, communication with users through high-quality gambling content.
Expert in:
  • iGaming Content
  • Bonus Incentives Theory
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Reviewed by Head of Content:
Dmitry Rogalchuk
Last updated on: 20.02.2024


📌 Is gambling safe in Canada?

Yes, it is. All casinos in Canada must own licenses from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. That includes both land-based and online casinos.

📌 Can I join online casinos anywhere in Canada?

Yes, you can. Before you join the casino, make sure that it is adequately regulated.

📌 Are online casinos more popular than land-based?

That depends on the province. In some areas, people enjoy playing online more, while in some regions land-based casinos are more popular.

📌 Which casinos are the oldest in Canada?

Canada has numerous old casinos that still work today. The oldest casino is Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, Gambling Hall.

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