A Short History of Gaming in Canada

January 16, 2018 2:01 pm by Ken E

Do you believe gaming is a new phenomenon in Canada? Time to re-think that myth. Are you aware that gaming in Canada goes back as far as least as the First Nations? Some social historians believe that the origins of gaming in North America goes back as far 6000 BC. Let’s take a brief historical tour through the evolution and key dates that have shaped gaming in Canada and the effects of those events on the industry and your online casino play in the present day;

Short History of Gaming in Canada

2300 BC

The first dice game was played in China. It is believed that these dice games were used as peaceful ways for Chinese warlords to settle territorial disputes between competing dynasties.

100 AD

King Olaf of Norway and King Olaf of Sweden expanded on the Chinese idea of resolving territorial disputes. The two King’s Olaf used dice to resolve a disagreement over which of the two royals was more suited to rule over the District of Hising. The Swedish King prevailed.

Middle Ages (800-1400 AD)

Throughout the Middle Ages, the European Bourgeoisie, Royalty and the elite members of society were playing Roulette.

Simultaneously, in the feudal villages, gambling games like Roulette and other games were a rowdy affair played in taverns and considered big community events.


England King Richard III prohibited dice games, a law that was later transported to Canada. His decision had more to do with military matters rather than any puritanical Christian beliefs. The decision was made due to Richard III’s concerns that his archers were spending too much time playing dice. He feared the men’s addiction to the dice games could result in a decline in his personal safety and cause security breaches in his Royal Court.


On his expeditions exploring the vast Canadian territory, John Cabot found several First Nations communities playing different games of chance. These games were important to the First Nations people as forms of spiritual, emotional, physical and mental development rather than games of entertainment or gambling.

Cabot studied the phenomenon further and uncovered proof that First Nations people were playing these games as far back as 6000 B.C. Of course, gaming tools of choice were not dice and cards in those times. The gaming scene in Canada back then involved sticks and pebbles, however, the basic gaming theories were the same.

1892 Prohibition of Gaming

– In 1892, Canada banned all forms of gaming. This was a time in which fundamentalist Christian religion and stiff morals were weighing heavily on the consciences of early Canadian legislators. As a result, every type of gambling was banned.

Just like the Prohibition of alcohol in the US in the 1920s, the move backfired. Instead of ‘cleansing’ Canada of gambling, it merely opened the doors to underground networks of criminal and mob-like activity to start and run illegal gambling dens.


By 1900, both bingo and raffles were permitted for charity fund-raising purposes.


Horseracing is added by Canadian legislators as an accepted form of gaming.


County fairs and exhibitions were also granted the right to hold gambling events. A few years later gaming activities were to be opened in much larger casino buildings.


In 1969, a further amendment was made by legislators to the Criminal Code to allow provincial governments to conduct their own lotteries, and authorise charitable organisations to do the same.

However, provincial governments did not have complete autonomy in the decision making or revenue collection and were all still under the control of the Federal Government, which also run its own lottery.  This amendment allowed for the provinces to raise funds for their own projects and events. The first lottery was created to raise funding for the vast construction projects required for the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics.


Another amendment was made by Canadian legislators in 1985 that saw control over gaming given to the provincial governments and territories. Permission was granted by the Federal Government for the provinces to administer the use of computer-based slot machines and video gaming devices.


The first land-based casino in Canada was opened in Winnipeg.


The first land-based casino in Montreal was opened and the very first online casinos began to be released in 1994.


By 2001, Canada had quickly evolved to become a gaming mecca with some of he best gaming infrastructure in the Western world including;

  • More than 31000 slot machines and 1800 bingo hall permits
  • 70 race tracks (20 are “racinos” or race tracks with slot machines).
  • 107 betting tele-theatres.
  • 59 permanent land-based casinos
  • 32000 lottery ticket centres nationwide.

2017 Online Casinos Have Changed Everything

Today, online casino gaming in Canada is all about choice, just as it is in most parts of the Western world. Many online casinos have now opened to provide players with something that land-based casino never could – access to casino games from the comfort of their homes on their desktop computers or playing ‘on-the-go’ on their phone or tablet.

Additionally, online gaming sites are fuelling interest in large-scale gambling events such as the World Series of Poker (WSOP). For example, in 2001 (long before the online poker boom) there were just over 600 WSOP entrants. By 2012 that number of WSOP entrants had grown to over 6000.

As with many online industries, we are now spoilt for choice. There is such a plethora of online casinos to choose from, it can be confusing.

How do you know which online casinos are the best, which are the safest and most secure, or which online casinos host the type of games that you prefer?

We’ve identified the best online casinos for Canadians in Bet365, Karamba, Betway, Jackpot City, William Hill, Spin Palace, Royal Vegas, Ruby Fortune, 888 Casino and All Slots Casino.

Take a look at our unbiased and independent online casino reviews guide to find the online casino that is best suited and customised to your personal gaming needs.

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