The Unveiling of Canada’s Gambling Historical Journey

Written By Janice Doughtrey

Canada’s history is interwoven with the fabric of gambling, a thread that has been woven through time, reflecting societal changes and economic shifts. From the indigenous games that were played for spiritual purposes to the modern casinos that dot the Canadian landscape, the evolution of gambling in the country is a captivating narrative that sheds light on the cultural, legal, and economic forces that have shaped its trajectory.

Early Roots: Indigenous Games and Colonial Influences

Long before European settlers arrived, indigenous peoples across Canada engaged in various forms of gambling for spiritual, social, and recreational purposes. Games like “Slahal” were played with bones or sticks and had ceremonial significance, often accompanying important events and celebrations. With the arrival of colonial powers, the gambling landscape underwent a transformation. Card games and dice games brought by European settlers gained popularity, showcasing the cross-cultural influences that would define Canada’s gambling tapestry.

Changing Tides: From Prohibition to Regulation

The 19th and early 20th centuries saw Canada grappling with the moral and social implications of gambling. Waves of prohibition and restrictions on various forms of gambling swept through the country, reflecting prevailing attitudes towards vice and morality. However, the mid-20th century witnessed a shift towards regulated gambling. The 1969 Criminal Code amendments granted provinces the authority to oversee and regulate gambling activities, leading to the establishment of legal lotteries and charitable gaming.

From Lotteries to Casinos: The Emergence of Modern Gambling

The late 20th century witnessed a significant expansion of gambling options in Canada. Lotteries gained popularity as a means of generating revenue for provincial governments while providing entertainment to citizens. This trend paved the way for the establishment of casinos in various provinces, offering a range of games from slots to poker. The launch of Casino Niagara in 1996 marked a significant milestone, ushering in an era of destination casinos that would attract tourists and contribute to local economies.

Online Gambling: The Digital Frontier

The advent of the internet brought new opportunities and challenges to Canada’s gambling landscape. Immerse yourself in exciting online gambling platforms that offered players convenience and a wide array of gaming options, but the lack of clear regulations posed challenges for both players and operators. The legal ambiguity surrounding online gambling led to a complex patchwork of provincial and federal laws, raising questions about player protection and responsible gambling.

Regulating the Future: Balancing Innovation and Responsibility

In recent years, Canada has been grappling with the need to balance innovation in gambling with responsible gambling practices. The rise of esports betting, daily fantasy sports, and online casinos has prompted discussions about updating existing regulations to address these emerging forms of gambling. Striking the right balance between promoting economic growth and safeguarding vulnerable individuals remains a central challenge.


The history of gambling in Canada is a tapestry woven with threads of cultural traditions, legal developments, and economic forces. From indigenous games rooted in spirituality to the modern casinos and online platforms of today, Canada’s gambling landscape has evolved in response to changing societal attitudes and economic imperatives. As the country navigates the complexities of regulating new forms of gambling, it faces the task of preserving the integrity of the industry while ensuring the well-being of its citizens. The ongoing journey of Canada’s gambling history offers valuable insights into the intricate relationship between tradition, regulation, and innovation in the realm of games of chance.