History of gambling in Canada
Gambling in Canada predates the written word. Oral history shows that in the pre-ice age (18 thousand years ago) gambling with sticks and bones was common, and had important social, spiritual, and community significance.
Prior to colonisation, gambling was commonplace, but European settlers were less sold on gambling and it was deemed illegal in British common law. After various changes in attitude and legislation over the centuries, Canada is one of the most liberal countries in the world when it comes to gambling.
Around 19.3 million Canadians gamble on a regular basis, and the boom of online gambling has led to a number of provinces launching their very own gambling sites. Canadian law means that any online gambling provider must be owned or licenced by the provincial government.
The first legal online casino was launched in 2004, and since then the market has grown, with many online operators now offering a plethora of bonuses to entice new players.
Land Based Casinos
There are 88 land based casinos in Canada that offer table games, as well as an additional 32 that offer slots and video/electronic gambling machines.
British Columbia leads the way with 34 licenced casinos, followed closely by Ontario and Alberta both with 28. 80% of gamblers are male, and are predominantly aged over 40 (70.8%).
The advances in technology and the move online has led to a boom in online gambling. Most land based casinos operating in Canada have made the move online to take advantage of a greater demographic and increased revenue potential. Around 76% of adult Canadians gamble online to a greater or lesser extent, with 25% of the population playing the lottery on a weekly basis.
There is a huge range of choice for Canadians when it comes to online casinos, in both games and promotions. To attract players to their sites, Canadian online casinos offer promotions and bonuses to new players as well as rewarding returning players for their loyalty.
The online world has attracted a whole new demographic when compared to land based casinos. There are more women (54%) visiting online casinos on their phones than men, the only country in the world where this is the case.
Additionally, the gender split is more balanced online, with men making up 57% and women 43% of online players. The 18-39 age range makes up 35.2% of total players, with other ages in the single figures.
Popular Casino Games
Slot machines are possibly the most popular casino game not just in Canada but in the world. Slots account for around 70% of the total revenue of both online and land based casinos. In Canada, most slots are run by charities and help support good causes whilst also being fun and engaging for players.
Slots are hugely popular because they are simple to play and require no prior knowledge of the game. There is no need for skill and anyone of any ability can play that game. Slots are also bright and engaging, with flashing lights and sounds that are designed to release endorphins in those who play them. Additionally, many operators have themed slots to appeal to both slot machine aficionados, as well as to entice fans of different TV shows, films and music.
Poker is also a hugely popular game, and is one of the most popular table games. It has straightforward rules that are easy to learn but hard to master. This means that there are tables for all abilities, from the beginner all the way through to the pro. Many online casinos have tournaments for all levels, and most will offer huge returns to high rollers prepared to take risks.
Many online casinos have used the advancements in technology to offer more immersive poker experiences, including using Virtual and Augmented reality, as well as having live dealer games on offer.
Blackjack is also a very popular casino game, and stands out due to the sheer number of different variants and house rules. Many enjoy the game because unlike poker players are trying to beat the house, rather than other players, and this means that the odds of winning tend to be higher than other casino games.
Players will try to get a hand worth more points than the dealers, which is as close to 21 as possible, without going over 21. Many casinos will have house rules that allow for additional wagers to be placed, split hands, as well as additional wins for five card tricks that equal 21. Going over 21 immediately results in a loss.
Roulette has been around for over 300 years, and is a staple feature in all Canadian casinos. Again, this is a game that relies on luck, and is fast paced and exciting. Players will place bets on numbers and colours, and the dealer will spin a ball in a spinning wheel. Players can place bets of any amount, making it ideal for all players.
The future of sports betting
In June 2021, the Senate of Canada passed a bill that will allow individual provinces to approve betting on single sports games. Prior to this, Canadians could only bet on sports through multi-leg parlays; where bets are linked together and treated as one big bet, creating scope for greater pay-outs, but also meaning that all games within the parlay must be won for there to be any pay-out.
Though the bill still needs to pass through parliament, there is hope in the industry that sports betting will become legal and mainstream in Canada in the not too distant future.