The Meteoric Rise of Ontario as a Gambling Destination in Canada

Published 12:48 pm Tuesday, July 18, 2023

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Canada is a country of many wonders. The land of Niagara Falls and the Sleeping Giants is also a dreamland for recreational gamblers. Interestingly, however, all forms of gambling are ‘prohibited’ according to the Criminal Code.

So how are bets placed? Well, placing a wager is possible thanks to Section 207 of the Criminal Code that allows provincial governments to regulate gambling as they see fit. Ontario became the first province to legalize online gambling and you can read the article here to learn more.

How Gambling is Allowed in Canada Despite Being Federally Prohibited?

Historical data shows that different types of gambling have been a part of Canada’s culture for centuries. Even before Jacques Cartier discovered the country, natives used to gamble with sticks and dice.

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As European influence started building, people started playing modern card games as well as betting on horses and this kept on going until 1892. That’s the birth year of the Canadian Criminal Code that banned gambling of all forms.

But there was a small loop. Gambling events were legal as long as the money raised was to be used for charity. During the 1900s, games like raffles and Bingo became hugely popular.

Gradually, the Federal Government of Canada made some changes to the Criminal Code that led to a massive boom in online and offline gambling in the country.

The Rise of the Gambling Industry Online

Online gambling first became prevalent in Canada during the mid-1990s and if you know your gaming history, you’ll be aware these years were the most crucial for the industry. The very first online casino, InterCasino was launched during this time.

The Canadian audience got immediate access to online gambling as there were no laws stopping them from doing so. However, it wasn’t until 2004 that Canada got its first state-owned online casino. It was PlayNow, a brand owned and operated by the British Columbia Lottery Commission. It’s still in operation and draws massive crowds every single month.

While British Columbia got the head start in the online space, anyone thinking it would lead the way for the rest of the provinces was wrong as this didn’t materialize. Instead, Ontario took the crown and became the first province to allow online gambling through private companies.

How Ontario is Leading the Online Gambling Revolution in Canada

It all started with the C-218 bill that was passed by the Senate in August 2021. This bill amended the single-game wagering ban in sports betting as well as legalized horse racing betting.

International Operators like DraftKings, BetMGM, Rivers, etc. had their eyes on the Canadian market for a long time. The success of the C-218 bill allowed them to finally penetrate the market.

However, just because the Senate passed a bill doesn’t mean it’ll go into effect right away. After all, Section 207 of the Criminal Code dictates that it’s the provincial governments that have the final say.

Ontario had already been home to 28 land-based casinos and who knows how many offshore gambling sites. After C-218 was passed, OLG in association with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario doubled down and legalized online gambling.

As a result, the most renowned gambling brands in the world went live with an Ontario license over the next few months. As of 2023, 62 online casinos and betting sites are operating in Ontario with legal licenses.

No other province has come close to reaching the level Ontario has, not yet, at least, and this is how Ontario is leading the online gambling revolution in Canada.