Luke Garrison: Sports & Casino Author from Canada

Sports & Casino: Luke Garrison

Luke Garrison is a professional writer who grew up just outside of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He currently works at the Canadian Press and enjoys the outdoors in his free time.

Many Canadian provinces still have a long way to go when it comes to offering the full gamut of lotto, casino, and sports betting gambling options. That said, gambling has taken big strides in recent years throughout both Canada and to the south in the United States – especially online.

Read on to learn more about key information surrounding the history and current state of gambling laws in Canada.

The Evolution of Canadian Gambling Laws Throughout History

For centuries, Canadians have enjoyed games of chance. In fact, stick gambling and dice games have been played by indigenous people dating as far back as 1497.

It was then that famous Italian explorer John Cabot observed these types of games being played by several indigenous populations in Canada. For the indigenous, this form of gambling was not simply recreational. It was often used as an arbitrary way to pay debts and to settle other disputes.

When European settlers began arriving in Canada in the 1600s, they brought cards and early iterations of blackjack and other chance games that became a large part of Canadian gambling culture. By the 19th century, gambling was quite regulatory throughout Canada and the government began to take notice.

Canada Passes First-Ever Gambling Regulations

The first-ever gambling regulations came about with the creation of the Canadian Criminal Code in 1892. At that point, games of chance including dice games and card games were being played at homes and taverns all over the country.

The Canadian government viewed gambling as a problem on par with alcohol, smuggling, and cock fighting. In fact, these initial gambling restrictions coincided with the time period of the Canadian prohibition. As such, many people in Canada perceived these historical events to be connected. In many ways, they are.

Canadian Government Continues To Amend Gambling Laws During 1900s

In 1910, an amendment was made to the code in order to allow profitable games of chance by charitable or religious organizations – for the purpose of fundraising. The change also legalized a type of gambling that is known as ‘pari-mutuel’ betting (derived from ‘Paris mutuel’). Paris itself did not make this type of betting legal until 1894.

To this day, pari-mutuel betting is a staple of horse racing betting. Essentially, all bets on a given race create a pool of reward money, which is then equally divided amongst all the winners. For example, if $50,000 is cumulatively wagered on a given horse race and 100 people bet on the winning horse, the prize money pool is split accordingly.

The law changed once again in 1925 to allow gambling at public events such as state fairs and other town exhibitions. From there, no significant modifications were made until certain lottery games were legalized in 1969. This move ended up having a domino effect as just a year later, in 1970, gambling was legalized at a federal level.

Canada’s Perception of Gambling Begins To Change

Once the legal stigma was lessened, Canadians became even more interested in gambling than before. The first official lottery was held in 1974 in an attempt to fundraise for the 1974 Winter Olympics – which Montreal was hosting.

Pari-mutuel racetrack betting was all the rage around this time period as well, with a reported $1.64 billion being cumulatively spent at racetracks across the country in 1984. Parlay betting was also gaining traction, becoming legal in 1985.

Another significant milestone was the grand opening of a casino in Winnipeg during 1989 – the first commercial land-based casino in Canadian history. Casinos had previously existed in Canada before, however they were often in members-only clubs exclusively reserved for the wealthy.

The success of this casino snowballed into another location being opened in Montreal just four years later. As the 90s progressed, the internet became prevalent and with it came a strong interest in online gambling.

The State of Canadian Gambling Laws Today

Modern-day Canadian gambling laws allow for a lot when compared to history, however there’s still a long way to go. One of the biggest hot-button issues is the presence of online commercial sportsbooks and casinos throughout Canada.

August 27th, 2021 was an important day for gambling laws in Canada as single-event betting was formally legalized at a federal level. Since then, large commercial sportsbooks and casinos such as DraftKings and FanDuel have been trying to enter the Canadian market.

To date, commercial gambling operators have only entered Ontario – which became a reality on April 4th, 2022. Other provinces do not have access to most online commercial sportsbooks, with the exception being offshore books that have been regulated by foreign gaming commissions such as bet365 and BetVictor.

Key Facts About Gambling Laws in Canada by Province

Each Canadian province has unique gambling laws that are decided upon by the gaming commission in charge. Here are some key facts about each Canadian province and which types of gambling are permitted in each:

Province Legal Gambling Age Gaming Regulator Online Commercial Sportsbooks? Online Non-Commercial Sportsbooks? Number of Land-Based Casinos
Alberta 18 Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis Commission Yes (Offshore) Yes 24
British Columbia 19 British Columbia Lottery Corporation Yes (Offshore) Yes 18
Manitoba 19 Liquor, Gaming & Cannabis Authority of Manitoba Yes (Offshore) Yes 8
New Brunswick 19 New Brunswick Lotteries & Gaming Corporation Yes (Offshore) Yes 2
Newfoundland & Labrador 19 Province of Newfoundland & Labrador (Atlantic Lottery Corp.) Yes (Offshore) Yes 0
Nova Scotia 19 Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation Yes (Offshore) Yes 11
Ontario 19 iGaming Ontario Yes Yes 25
PEI 19 Prince Edward Island Lotteries Commission Yes (Offshore) Yes 8
Quebec 18 Loto-Québec Yes (Offshore) Yes 6
Saskatchewan 19 Saskatchewan Liquor & Gaming Authority Yes (Offshore) Yes 8


Many Canadian provinces are, at minimum, attempting to progress towards the legalization and launch of online commercial gambling – with Ontario setting precedent as the first to have done so. Western provinces including Alberta and British Columbia are beginning to come around to the idea, with government books still being the only available option that’s regulated by a local governing body.

Offshore books are permitted to operate in many parts of Canada and are not technically illegal despite not being regulated. With offshore books comes offshore profits, which is certainly enough incentive for provincial Canadian governments to eventually find a way to keep that handle within country lines.


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