Over the years, Canada has had an arguably tumultuous relationship with gambling. Through changes in law and adapted regulations, the country has come a long way in making casino gaming widely available to its natives.
The Criminal Code of Canada currently acts as the main authority for the North American nation – however when it comes to gambling, each province is left to make its own decision. Because of this, different parts of Canada have gone on to form their own commissions to further regulate casino gameplay in that region. But we’ll tell you more about that later!
Join us as we take you on a journey back through the history of casinos in Canada, and how they have evolved.
The First Game
According to historians, Slahal was the first game that involved wagering to hit Canada – specifically just south of Niagara. This is a traditional stick game, which consists of two opposing teams. There are two pairs of bones – or sticks – with one pair having stripes around them and the other presented as plain. There’s also a set of ten scoring sticks, split evenly between both sides before being exchanged and given to the teams to signify a point after each round.
One team will be given all four of the bones, with two individuals being nominated and the bones divided between them – one striped and one plain each. Next, they will swap the bones between their hands and each other in secret, before the opposing team are asked to guess where the two plain bones are located. If they guess correctly, they will be given a scoring stick, and it’ll be the other team’s turn to score. This continues until all the scoring sticks have been distributed.
The game originates from indigenous culture, and also involves chanting and drumming – with both teams joining in with the songs. What’s more, Slahal is still alive today and features regularly in traditional festivals across the country, for example, at Vancouver’s Summer Live festival.
Coming to America
Traces of gambling can be found in America, before the country itself even existed, established by the first British American colonies in the late 1500s. As the years went on, anti-gambling movements pushed for laws against gambling, which led to casinos moving onto riverboats along the Mississippi River, to cover the grey areas of the law.
By the 20th century, the pastime of playing card games hit Las Vegas and gangsters were soon ruling the casino scene. This carried on for many years, before laws became more regulated and the way to play that we know today began to form.
As we’ve mentioned above, Canada is one of the only countries that allow each of their 10 provinces to decide for themselves what they will, and won’t, accept in terms of in-person and online gambling. In particular, Ontario and Alberta have constructed their own successful organisations to regulate this gameplay, and ensure that all players get their casino fix safely.
Ontario’s relationship with gambling began in 1975, when they introduced the Ontario Lottery Corporation (OLC) in order to regulate their Lottery games. In the same year, they developed WINTARIO, a Lottery game that was used to promote physical fitness, sports, cultural and other recreational activities, through the Ministry of Culture and Regulation.
The province’s first brick-and-mortar casino was built in Windsor, in 1994. Following the enactment of the Ontario Casino Corporation Act. This ensured that there were policies and programmes in place to keep casino gaming safe and fair.
Alberta’s governing board comes in the form of the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) which oversees all kinds of potentially taboo activities that operate within the province. Similarly, to Ontario, proceeds from casino gaming is used to financially support society, with the AGLC helping to maintain the integrity and security of the games.
Coming on leaps and bounds, Alberta debuted their first – and only – regulated online casino in 2020, called Play Alberta which offers residents the chance to play all kinds of casino games from the comfort of their homes, including live dealer options.
As you now know, the journey from the first introduction of casino gaming to the way we play in Canada today has been long and entirely transformative. So, when you next log on to your favourite online casino, think about how far the pastime has come. Makes you appreciate things a little bit more, eh?