Briefly before we got onto the business of detailing casinos in Halifax: Whoa, does this city have an interesting history – and future, seemingly. From its war-triggering foundation in 1749 with nearly 1,200 settlers (talk about your instant communities) to its forward-thinking eco-friendly urban planning earning high marks for livability, Halifax is quite fascinating. And there’s some decent (if limited) gambling to be had as well…
For full-on, proper casino gambling, Halifax and environs really host just one such place: The Casino Nova Scotia. The first to carry the “Casino Nova Scotia” brand name, Halifax’s Casino Nova Scotia is a Las Vegas-style casino complex located downtown. No fewer than three auditoriums -- Harbourfront Lounge, Schooner Showroom and the Compass Room, and if you didn’t know Halifax is a port city before you arrived, you will by the time you go – host acts year ‘round. Several restaurants and eateries are within the block and/or neighboring hotel. Heck, the casino website touts its 450-space carpark and subsequent easy downtown access as a casino amenity.
As for the casino gaming, not much has changed since the Casino Nova Scotia moved to its permanent Halifax location in 2000. About 550 slot machines and video poker terminals are in play, as well as a good dozen table games at any one time. Casino staples like blackjack, Texas Hold ‘em, Let it Ride, American roulette and European roulette are joined by lesser-seen games such a Blackjack Swtich and Mississippi Stud, plus a variation on blackjack which includes the “King’s Bounty Side Bet.” Craps players should not that the dice game is offered at this Casino Nova Scotia outlet, but only on Fridays and Saturdays.
As stable as the offerings at the Casino Nova Scotia in Halifax – not to mention the income – have been, the business dealings determining control have sometimes been calamitous.
With the North American casino boom of the 1990s, the Las Vegas-based megacorporation Caesars Entertainment began speculating (read: throwing money around) in Canadian markets. In Halifax, the Caesars folks hastily installed a temporary location within the downtown Sheraton Hotel while plunking $100 million into a Las Vegas-style (read: bigass) casino.
Though opening a bit behind schedule in April 2000, the Casino Nova Scotia enjoyed a fair bit of sustained popularity. But in 2005 – at essentially the height of popularity of casino gambling in Canada measured against per capita income, GDP, etc. – Harrah’s Entertainment successfully pulled off a hostile takeover of Caesars Entertainment, shedding properties worldwide from the latter company. One of these was the Casino Nova Scotia Halifax, which was snapped up by the BC-based conglomerate Great Canadian Gaming (GCG) Corporation.
Unfortunately for the GCG, the still-profitable casino operation has yet to rebound to mid-2000s levels and, realistically, probably never will. In an attempt to drum up greater revenue, the GCG along with the authoritative body Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation (NSGC) announced a new wrinkle for the casino as of summer 2017: The inclusion of off-track betting from simulcast races at the Northside Downs. Or, as a Casino Nova Scotia representative put it at the official announcement: “We’re partnering with our friends at Truro Raceway and the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition.” One can’t help but conclude, with the GCG owning some nine racetracks in Canada, that more simulcast racing will be available at Nova Scotia Casinos in the future.
Incidentally, don’t shed any tears for Harrah’s, now renamed Caesars Entertainment Corporation: Their income slump is measure in the hundreds of millions.
Well, if you’re into the blotters-and-cards voodoo, you’ll be glad to know that Halifax Forum Super Bingo, run by the Halifax Community Association, truly lives up to its name. With a massive hall seating nearly 750 players, dozens of games at various stakes are played seven nights a week, year ‘round.
If you want convincing of this bingo parlor’s awesomeness, the official website helpfully includes a “360° virtual tour” of the place. Nice.
Firstly, we may say that nothing in the Canadian Criminal Code explicitly forbids any citizens from gambling online. Since legal questions surrounding the internet gambling milieu first arose in the 1990s, the national government has mostly seen fit to pass the buck ton these issues to the provinces.
The overarching authority for gambling online is apparently the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC), which serves this function in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador. If online gambling is to be approved for these provinces, it will have to go through the ALC, which has put up some token efforts to move in the direction of nearly every westerly province, i.e. establish a government-approved website or websites which may be regulated and taxed.
In 2010, some talk in government circles within the four provinces under ALC’s jurisdiction circulated in response to the expansion of the “bricks-and-mortar” casino industry in New Brunswick, but this ultimately went nowhere in any of the provinces. The ALC undertook a comprehensive study in 2014 on the effects of internet gambling in the provinces which seemed to return fairly positive, progressive results, but again … crickets. And perhaps a tumbleweed blowing past. (Okay, so that’s not a very Canadian metaphor, but you get the idea.)
In short, then, players in Halifax seeking online casino outlets are limited only by your bank. As it stands in both Canada and the United States, banks and such financial institutions reserve the right to decline any transaction to or from online casinos. As of 2017, the number of financial institutions turning down said transactions is consistently dropping, and electronic methods (or e-wallets) are also readily available at any decent casino websites.
So until that day if/when the ALC actually hands down a decision on gambling law in Halifax and Nova Scotia, you’re basically able to play at any casino website accepting Canadian players.