Think gambling is a relatively new phenomenon in Canada? Think again. Of the two words
Gambling and Canada, the latter is actually way ahead on the Canadian
Canada was born in 1867, but long before the guy who adorns the 10-dollar bill became
our first Prime Minister, the natives were testing their luck with various forms of
Cabot discovered a native population who played games of chance. The games were
said to help their physical, mental, and spiritual growth. Cabot dug deeper into the
phenomenon and unearthed proof that people were gambling as far back as the year 6000
Of course, dice and cards weren't the norm way back then. The gambling scene in Canada
back then involved sticks and pebbles, but the basic gambling concept was the same.
But just because something had been done for years, it doesn't mean that it would remain
In 1892, the
Criminal Code banned every form of gambling. That didn't last too long,
though. As times changed, so did perceptions on gambling. In 1900, bingo and raffles
were permitted for charitable purposes. Ten years later, horse racing was added to
the list of acceptable forms of gambling. And in 1925, fairs and exhibitions were
granted the right to hold gambling events.
In 1969, the Canadian government saw huge value in lotteries. So they amended the
Criminal Code to allow both the federal and provincial governments to run lotteries
to fund special projects. The very first lottery was held in 1974 to raise funds for
the Olympics in Montreal.
Over the years, the provinces were given more rights to run lotteries, horse races,
video slot machines, and casinos. Today, you can find casinos in almost every
province in Canada. And over the years, they've become huge attractions for people
who love to gamble and be entertained.
The casino-government relationship in Canada varies from province to province. In
some provinces, casinos are owned and operated by the government. In other
provinces, they're owned by the government but operated by private enterprise. No
matter who runs them, they're big business generating big profits.
$439 million. That's how much Caesars spent on renovating and rebranding the casino
in Windsor, Ontario a few years back, which is now known as Caesars Windsor. The
Ontario casino on the Detroit border rivals some of the high-end casinos you'd find
in Sin City.
On the surface, a half-a-billion dollars seems like a hefty figure to spend on
renovating a casino that was already serving its purpose and attracting crowds.
Prior to the transformation, Casino Windsor wasn't exactly a dump. Sure, it was
showing some age, but you can find a lot less impressive casinos across the
And it's not like people who love to go to Vegas are going to suddenly stay home
because a casino has been remodeled to feel like Vegas. Nothing can replace Las
Vegas, and diehard Sin City fans will still head to Nevada to get their casino
So who exactly was Caesars competing with? Some argue it was MGM on the Detroit
side. But let's face it. Detroit is, well, Detroit. And citizens on both sides of
the border would much rather head to the much safer Windsor than deal with who knows
what in Detroit.
The real competitors live thousands of miles away, but as close as just a click
For Canadians, gambling is all about options.
Today, thousands of real money online casinos dominate the
Canadian casino space. Hundreds of poker rooms and literally thousands of different
online casinos do what the government couldn't do - bring a casino into the homes of
people who love to play games of chance.
And you don't even have to search hard to find one. In Canada, it's common to see
advertising for free-play poker sites and casinos on national broadcasts, including
Billions of dollars are being spent on gambling by Canadians, and online casinos
that aren't necessarily based in Canada are taking a bulk of the money. So does that
mean that the government casinos are taking a hit? Not necessarily.
In Ontario, the government has authorized several new casinos to be built. Private
Las Vegas enterprise has jumped at the opportunity of operating a casino in Toronto,
Ottawa, Kingston, and elsewhere, and it's only a matter of a few years before new,
luxurious gambling palaces open up.
If anything, online casinos are actually fueling interest in land-based casinos. For
many, playing online doesn't replace playing live just as buying a CD doesn't
replace going to a concert. If you love gambling, you'll be after all sorts of
gaming experiences - online and live.
Just look at the World Series of Poker for proof. In 2001, before the online poker
boom, there were 612 entrants in the Main Event of the World Series of Poker. In
2012? A total of 6,598 players took a seat in the Main Event.
Online gambling has actually brought
semi-professional gambling into the mainstream - and it's completely changed the
social perception of gambling. Just take a look at poker again for proof. Prior to
the 2000s, if you told someone you played poker for a living, you were viewed as a
degenerate gambler or a criminal. People assumed you played in illegal card rooms or
in underground basement casinos. And if you got far enough in the conversation to
tell them you played in legal poker rooms in Las Vegas, they'd likely assume that
you live in your car, trying to repay a series of gambling debts.
Today, if you tell a new acquaintance that you play poker for a living, they might
assume that you're well off, perhaps living in the lap of luxury. If you're playing
poker for a living, the new argument goes that you're obviously making good money at
The change in perception comes from the fact that we've all watched doctors,
lawyers, accountants, day traders, college professors, and all kinds of
professionals trade in high-paying jobs for poker chips. We all realize that
gambling is more than dropping chips on the felt and crossing your fingers. It's
about knowing how to make the right bets at the right time, and it's about
outsmarting your rivals.
For Canadians, gambling is all about options. In Canada, you can play online. You
can play in a government-run casino. You can head to a racetrack. You can play in
privately operated casinos, like Caesars Windsor. You can play pretty much
That's the reality today. But what does the future hold?
As the provinces get into the regulated online casino space - British Columbia and
Quebec both have casino sites, and Ontario is building one as we speak - Canadians
are going to have even more choice. The provincial online casinos might have to join
forces to create a national online casino if they want to compete with international
sites that have a decade-long head start.
But no matter who comes out on top - whether government online casinos,
international online casinos, or a healthy mix of everyone - one thing is almost
certain. Canadian gamblers will continue to have tons of choice. And at the end of
the day, that makes the Canadian casino player the ultimate winner.