Then and Now: Canada Casinos Online and On Land
Gambling is nothing new to mankind. We’ve been doing it ever since our cavemen ancestors learned to throw rocks. In Canada, casinos – online and on land – have a rich history, and no doubt a bright future ahead.
Origins of Gambling in Canada
While it’s impossible to say just how long Canadians have been gambling, the earliest records point all the way back to 1485, when King Richard III outlawed dice games for fear his archers had become overly distracted from their duties, putting the safety of the country in jeopardy. That ban wasn’t lifted until March 15, 1999 by the government of Ottawa; 611 years later.
In 1497, John Cabot discovered Natives playing games of chance. He noted that these games weren’t just random gambling amusements, but had a deeper meaning for the tribes, encouraging physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth.
78 Years of Prohibition
The first form of relative legislation came about centuries later, when a blanket ban on gambling was scripted into the Criminal Code of Canada in 1892. All gambling, in all forms and manners, was outlawed.
It wasn’t until 1970 that the legal landscape finally began to change. The country gave individual provinces the right to authorise and regulate certain forms of gambling, and it didn’t take long for them to build the first casinos in Canada.
New Era: Canada Casinos Online and On Land
In 1971, Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall officially opened as the country’s first casino (of legal standing, that is) in Dawson City, Yukon. Other provinces were slower to react, with Calgary, Alberta’s Cash Casino opening next in 1980.
From there, it was a virtual onslaught of Canadian casinos as more than 100 gambling facilities of all sizes and orientations were established. From British Columbia to Quebec, the last four decades have seen provincial lotteries, racetracks, casinos and sportsbooks launch across the nation, mostly as charitable entities that benefit government programs and local communities.
In the late 1990’s, we began to see online casinos in Canada. The digital gambling industry evolved quickly, and grew at a rapid pace in the True North, but mostly from international sources.
In 1999, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, based in Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, became the first to regulate Canada casinos online from within the country, but did so on sovereign land, and therefore under sovereign law.
The first provincially run sites were launched and regulated by the Atlantic Lottery Corp (ALC) and British Columbia Lottery Corp (BCLC). Both were established in 2004, but choose to restrict the games to online lotto only.
Then in 2010, the BCLC expanded its services on PlayNow to present the first true, Canadian-licenced, real money online casino. In the beginning, it offered games like blackjack, roulette and slot machines, expanding over the coming years to include poker, bingo, keno and sports betting.
Loto-Quebec launched EspaceJeux in December of that same year, followed by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp (OLG) launching PlayOLG in January, 2015.
Future of Live and Online Casinos in Canada
For now, provinces provide the only locally regulated Canada casinos online, and despite the claims of some, it is perfectly legal for residents to deposit and play at offshore, internationally licensed operations. That could change if provinces manage to pass some type of ring-fencing legislation, but Canadian law has consistently prevented them from doing so.
It’s also possible that provincial governments could seek to ally with offshore operators, generating revenue by providing licences to international sites and collecting applicable taxes. But that’s not likely to happen so long as governments continue to focus on ways to shore up their monopoly, rather than sharing in the wealth of a steadily growing global industry.
As for land-based casinos in Canada, revenue has been on the decline in most regions. Some blame the digital age and efficacy of mobile gaming. Others point to a flagging economy, reduced interest from millennials, or increased competition across the US border. These are certainly all contributing factors, but with a population of fun-loving, entertainment seeking Canucks, the brick-and-mortar gambling industry won’t be fading away anytime soon.
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