Ontario’s gambling scene

Canada’s gambling laws are some of the most relaxed in the world, with gambling in some form or other permitted across all 10 provinces and three territories.  However, regulation is on a provincial level, so what is allowed in one area may be illegal in another. Generally speaking, land (bricks-and-mortar) gambling is legal across all of Canada (except Newfoundland and Labrador), such as casinos, racetracks, bingo, slot machines and lotteries.

As a general rule, private betting houses, and non-government regulated casinos and lottery machines are illegal, and online gambling is tightly regulated. All online gambling has to be licenced or owned by a provincial government. There have been several high-profile cases involving illegal off-shore sites; British Colombia successfully sued a Delaware-based site for $4 million, and in 2013 the Ontario government forfeited £2 million dollars from an offshore gambling site. Therefore, it is key when gambling online in Canada, to use a Canadian-based, government licenced site or one licenced by a gaming authority such as the MGA (Malta Gaming Authority).

Gambling has steadily increased in popularity since it was decriminalized in 1969, growing from state-lotteries designed to raise money for worthy causes (including the Montreal Olympics 1976), to ticket lotteries, horse racing, bingo, casinos and video lottery terminals. Casino gambling is the most popular, with over 100 operating nationally attracting both locals and visitors. Some casinos are in quaint parts of the country, such as Manoir Richelieu, whereas others have taken inspiration from Vegas, with live shows, shopping and restaurants. There are also destination and resort-style casinos with on-site accommodation, restaurants, shopping centres and stunning scenery.

Some land casinos in Canada have taken inspiration from Las Vegas hosting their own ‘resort’ with a hotel and shopping centres.

As a popular form of entertainment for both locals and tourists alike, there are different types of casinos. In British Colombia, there is a beautiful, luxury hotel with casino and gold resort, as well as gourmet restaurants: a smaller casino, with just 240 slot machines and 4 tables, and not open 24/7, it attracts a different demographic of more casual gamblers.  In Alberta, River Cree Resort and Casino has over 1100 slot machines, 39 tables and a poker room, and works to attract locals with a membership scheme, awarding points for daily visits. Ontario has the most casinos in Canada, with 25, of which 4 are resort-style predominantly around Niagara Falls. Casino Niagara has over 13000 slot machines, 30 tables, a poker room and a sports section, as well as restaurants and live entertainment. The Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort has 3000 slots and 120 tables, as well as 374 luxury rooms.

Despite the popularity of land casinos in Canada, there has been a huge increase in the popularity of online casinos, and it is becoming the biggest sector in the gambling market. One of the key driving forces behind this is the technical boom seen over the last 20 years’, in particular over the last decade with the advent of smartphones. As technology has improved, casinos have been able to improve their digital offerings to customers, recreating the feel of the casino online.

Gamblers no longer have to go to a physical location and spend time going to tables, finding free machines and having to find a block of time to be able to gamble. With online gambling they can do this on the go, from the comfort of their own homes, and drop in and out throughout the day when they have breaks. There are many casino providers to choose from online all offering various casino games. An example of a casino site who offer a wide range of games is 888 casinos. On 888 casino games, players have the option to play games such as roulette, poker and baccarat to name a few.

Online gambling allows for anonymity, additional security, and allows gamblers to keep better track of their winnings and losses. Whilst some still prefer the atmosphere and social aspect of a casino, the online offering has become increasingly popular, and has attracted a new demographic of casual gamblers who have never set foot in a casino, as well as veteran gamblers who play online and on land.

Mobile phones have contributed to the success of online casinos with players being able to access games at their own convenience.

The boom of casinos, both land and online, has had huge benefits to Ontario’s and the wider Canadian economy. It is expected to increase revenue to around CA$500 billion by 2023, meaning about CA$31 billion is state revenue, and the gambling industry employs around 100,000 people. Other benefits to the economy include those employed in the software industry, and the tax revenues collected here, as well as increased development in technology, including supporting small start-ups.  In 2017, Ontario reported revenue of CA$7.445 billion from gambling, around CA$2.36 billion from online gambling.

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