Gambling in Ontario – What is There to Know?

Intro

Clocking in as the second largest Canadian province (but most populous), Ontario is home to the most intense gambling activity in the country. Out of a total population of 13.5 million, reports conducted in recent years showed that a staggering 83% of Ontarians engage in gambling activities. With over 10,000 gambling sites spread across its territory, the percentage of players surpasses that in Quebec by a margin of 17%.   

Moreover, the industry was booming until the global pandemic started taking its toll. For comparison, back in 2017, Ontario was generating a whopping 43% of all gambling revenue within Canada’s borders, raising the bar to a colossal CA$17.3 billion, nationwide. The province was leading the surge and Ontario enjoyed a hefty rise in percentages in all matters regarding lottery, online gambling, charitable gaming, and casinos.

Over the course of the next fiscal year, however, Ontario has been showcasing a slight downward trend in gambling activity – and consequently revenue share – with the total funds raised from gambling in 2018 amassing to “only” CA$5.0 billion. In 2019, things seemed to get back on track, with gambling parlors sprinkled across the province’s territory shoveling in a whopping CA$8.0 billion.

Then, there was a slight hiccup – or cough, if you will (pun intended). As the pandemic set in, Ontario has been forced to adopt preventative measures. In doing so, the province forfeited a very large chunk of profits. The annual report for 2019/20 shows that only CA$2.3 was generated in gambling revenue. Alternatively, the prognosis for 2020/21 is not encouraging by any means – only $200 million is expected to be made until the end of the current fiscal year.

Ontario’s Legal Standpoint

So, what’s up with those fluctuations, you may ask? It’s simply that when it’s going well, it’s going well. But when it’s going bad, though, officials seem to be heeding the alarming news in a bid to improve the situation, at least. Time will tell which measures will actually be implemented, but it’s good to see that there is a growing awareness surrounding the topic.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) makes for the primary regulatory body in the province, and it is in charge with overseeing all gambling venues (online or brick-and-mortar), including racetracks, plus services and tools offered through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG).

OLG is the sole government-owned gambling venture, but it offers a varied array of both online casino entertainment, as well as land-based gambling options. Players seeking to join in must be at least 18 years off age to purchase lottery tickets and 19 or above to participate in any other gambling activities.

Some of the most notable gambling sites in the area are Woodbine Racetrack and Woodstock Raceway that also house a modest collection of OLG slots. Casino-wise, the Great Blue Heron, Thunder Bay, Shorelines Casino Thousand Islands and the infamous Caesars Windsor are just some of the best land-based options to choose from.

However, as online gambling finds itself on an ever-ascending slope, Ontario residents have started shifting more and more towards the massive offering offshore casinos bring to the table. And that’s perfectly fine with the officials. Not in the sense that in recent years, the government has been losing billions of dollars because of the murky regularization surrounding sports betting, but more like you won’t have legal issues (nor support from the local government) if you choose to place bets with one.

However, the officials have changed their stance (at least on single-event sports betting), touting even more beneficial developments in the future.

OLG’s Reassurances and Recommendations to Players

While officials are focusing on improving the sole proprietary online casino, gambling afficionados that are looking for premium casino experiences in land-based venues have a lot of good options to choose from.

Even though intimidatingly picturesque, the Fallsview Casino Resort situated right on the shore of the world-renowned Niagara Falls doesn’t come close to its equally impressive Windsor Caesars in terms of betting limits. Hence, as Fallsview acts as one of the most important poker tournament hotspots in the country (also complete with hundreds of slot machines and table games), Caesars allows betting limits as high as $25,000 on Blackjack and peaking at a whopping $50,000 for roulette.

Ontario Gambling Awareness & Support

While the prevalence of problem gambling among youth aged 10 to 24 worldwide ranges from 0.2% to 12.3%, studies conducted in recent times on the Ontarian player base have shown that approximately 2.2% of the province’s youth falls under this worrying category.

For this purpose, the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care came up with the YGAP (Youth Gambling Awareness Program). As opposed to its name, however, the directive doesn’t focus exclusively on the young gamblers. In an effort to counteract the negative pull of gambling, YGAP offers its support services in both English and French with extension to parents, professionals, and adults.

To tackle the issue at hand, YGAP offers interactive workshops in camp settings, classrooms or community centers which can be booked either as a series or as a singular event.

Quebec Gambling – A Brief but Complete Rundown

As the largest of all the 13 Canadian provinces and surpassed in size only by the territory of Nanavut, surprisingly enough Quebec doesn’t necessarily host the heaviest concentration of gambling aficionados as one might think. It’s not because there aren’t enough options. If anything, there aren’t enough stakers for the plethora of gambling activities the province boasts.

The majority of the population is concentrated along the banks of the Saint Lawrence River, in between the heaviest populated Montreal (approximately 4 million residents) and the capital city.

The primary regulatory body of the province is RACJ (Régie des Alcools, des Courses et des Jeux) which focuses on ensuring the safety and transparency of players across all gambling activities offered locally. Even so, gamblers might be more acquainted with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC) that oversees poker rooms and online casinos within the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory. Betway and Zodiac Casino – two giant operators – are currently regulated by the KGS, for example.

Quebec’s Collection of Gambling Activities

If you’re thinking about land-based options, just know that in spite of its sheer size, Quebec has only four brick-and-mortar casinos:

  • Casino de Montreal
  • Casino du Lac-Leamy
  • Casino de Mont-Tremblant
  • Casino de Charlevoix

However, all establishments offer a great diversity of gambling activities. For example, the exquisite Casino de Montreal is composed of three main buildings that houses over 3,000 fruit machines, 25 poker tables, and 100 table games, apart from four restaurants and two bars. It has been reported that approximately 20,000 players come through the casino’s doors on a daily basis.

In addition to this, Quebec also offers two gaming halls – Quebec City Gaming Hall and Trois-Rivieres Gaming Hall – that also contain virtual lottery terminals, keno, blackjack, electronic roulette, and slot machines, apart from live racing events.

Lottery is another big aspect of any Quebecer’s thrill seeker, as this particular gambling activity has been enjoying massive success for the past half century and doesn’t give any signs of letting up anytime soon.

Loto-Quebec (the government proprietary operator) is in charge with overseeing and upkeeping fair and transparent practices across all gambling-related activity, including lottery, keno, kinzo, and bingo events. Espacejeux.com is a product of Loto-Quebec and boasts over 35 lottery games, including Lotto 6/49 and Lotto Max, on top of a relatively modest array of slots acquired through some of the most reputable game providers on the market (the likes of Microgaming, Interactive, IGT). In total, there are nearly 40 bingo halls and 4,000 retail lottery outlets sprinkled across Quebec and regularized by Loto-Quebec.

Life as a Quebec Online Gaming Enthusiast

About 66% of Quebecers partake in gambling activities, on average. With such compelling offering (only made broader by offshore casinos), it is understandable that keeping true to the strong cultural heritage surrounding Canuck gambling comes natural in such a favorable environment. Also, Quebec is one of the few gambling jurisdictions where players are allowed to join in on games of chance once they turn 18.

There are no restrictions relating to offshore casinos, so gamblers looking for more diversity than the local ventures have to offer can rest assured that there are plenty of choices. Moreover, there are no taxes on real money winnings – unless you make a living out of professional gambling.

Might be just superstition, but the province proved rather lucky for quite a few thrill-seekers. One of the biggest wins ever recorded at Casino de Montreal came in the form of an astounding $1.7 million Jackpot, out of a $15 bet on the Powerbucks progressive slot linked to venues across Manitoba and Columbia.

Quebec Officials’ Support for Local Gamblers

Players seeking help can visit any “Centru du Hasard” kiosk found in all Quebec gambling establishments, Trois-Rivieres, and Loto-Quebec’s Montreal headquarters. The central purposes of these outlets are to:

  • Raise awareness in regards to all forms of gambling
  • Educate locals and tourists on the nature of gambling activities
  • Suggest strategies to counteract problem gambling

Not only that, but according to the official Loto-Quebec website, gaming hall employees are meticulously trained to detect signs of problem gambling. In turn, security agents on location are alerted to tend to such customers until health counselors from crisis or addiction rehabilitation centers arrive on the scene. Alternatively, there is also a bilingual, free-of-charge self-exclusion program in place to which players can refer to. Ultimately, players concerned about their gambling habits can refer to the designated Gambling: Help and Referral help line that is constantly displayed on the screens of every slot machine (1-800-461-0140).

How Nova Scotia Tackles Online Casinos and Slots

Intro

Nova Scotia is abundant with casinos – both online and land-based establishments. So, even though you can’t make it to the Sydney or Halifax brick-and-mortar venues, there are still plenty of options to choose from while benefiting from a safe environment. One question remains, though. How legal is it to play at anything other than government-held ventures?

Regularization

While Canada’s gambling regularization approach might prove a bit confusing given the government is taking on a decentralized approach, the major detail in all of this is easy to understand. That is even though officials tend to breeze by this critical piece of information.

It is NOT illegal to play at offshore casinos within Nova Scotia’s borders. It’s just not recommended, as locals doing so will not benefit from their government’s legal backing.

Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation (NSGC) is the province’s regulatory body AND a Crown corporation conducting operations and enforcing regulation under the Gaming Control Act. As an “in-house” operator, ultimately the Nova Scotia government representatives as well as citizens act as the province’s gambling industry “shareholders”.

NSGC’s main role is to ensure fairness and transparency across all gambling activities within Nova Scotia’s borders while also focusing on generating profits through the only two proprietary land-based gaming establishments – Atlantic Lottery and Casino Nova Scotia. Much like its counterparts, Nova Scotia pledges its revenue to the people with a secondary focus on furthering responsible gaming campaigns and programs as well as upkeeping the economical sustainability of the gaming industry.  

Ease of Access & Diversity

You’ve already heard the good news: wherever you decide to play at, more power and good luck to you! It is not mandatory for regulatory bodies to own casino operations, but the fact that the NSGC holds two brick-and-mortar casino leaves online thrill seekers on the outside (and not quite).

With huge casino halls come huge selections, even wider arrays of bonuses and promotions, exclusivities, all sorts of tournaments or time-limited challenges, etc. So, the offering is quite substantial overall, if you also count the 2,000+ video lottery terminals within Nova Scotia’s borders. Other gambling activities popular among Nova Scotians are Poker Lotto, 6/49 and Pro-Line.

Much like in other gambling jurisdictions across Canada, players have to be at least 19 years old and a resident of Nova Scotia to be eligible for any kind of gambling entertainment. Also

Prevention Measures and Help Programs

Among a plethora of provincial programs, GANS (Gambling Awareness Nova Scotia) has been raising awareness against problem gambling since 1998. Also, more than just awareness has been raised by the non-profit organization.

In a similar fashion to British Columbia and Alberta, GANS has been focusing primarily of collecting and subsequently redirecting gambling-related profits towards the local community for both modernization as well as supporting problem gambling prevention programs. The money used to these effects is collected from the virtual lottery terminals in the form of a percentage that is matched by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation. As a branch of the government, GANS falls under the Minister of Health and Wellness’ responsibility.

What to Know About British Columbia’s Online Slots Policy

In British Columbia, officials with the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB) are in charge with ensuring the integrity of any business, people, physical or digital tool and service relating to the gambling industry. It is also the competent entity to conduct thorough investigations and take measures against gambling allegations or proven wrongdoings through the Gaming Control Act, Gaming Control Regulations and Canada’s Criminal Code.

However, you may be better acquainted with the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), which is actually overseen by the GPEB.

BCLC is a provincial Crown corporation that both manages and conducts casinos, bingo halls, and lotteries with the main purpose of generating revenue that would be put to later use towards health care, education and community programs. In turn, BCLC oversees service providers across British Columbia (such as the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation that leases or owns community gambling sites). In total, there are at least 20 service providers and over 48 locations (including River Rock Casino and Hard Rock Casino Vancouver, along many other hotels that offer gambling activities, racetracks, entertainment outlets or food & beverage places) that fall under BCLC and GPEB’s jurisdiction.

How Gambling Works in British Columbia?

The short answer would be “pretty much as in any other location across Canada”. The main prerequisites are that you have to be at least 19 years old, a British Columbia resident, and physically present within its borders to be able to purchase lottery tickets from the website.

Amid all the might of a pretty extensive regularization scheme, how surprised would you be to find out that the province not only rules the gambling domain inside its borders with an iron fist, but it also perfectly set the stage for an online casino of its own? In fact, you shouldn’t be surprised at all. Why go through all the trouble of setting up the rules of the game if not willing to partake, right? Especially with the strong cultural heritage surrounding Canuck gambling. But then again, it’s not mandatory for regulatory bodies to develop and operate a gambling venture of its own. In this lucky case (depending on which side of the border you are), it happened.

There are shortcomings, as well. First of all, the offering is scarce overall and the focus falls primarily on lotteries, poker, keno and some sports. While casino entertainment has been kind of left in the rearview mirror, offshore competition certainly stepped in to fill up the gap, putting British Columbia officials on the spot in regards to a very simple question: “Is it legal to play at anything other than government-owned online casinos?”. And the answer is “YES”. While it is not illegal to engage in gambling activities on foreign websites, players won’t be covered by the British Columbia legal system if anything goes awry. However, as long as the offshore casino is regulated by a trustworthy international entity and the players have touched base with the minimum implications (at the very least), everything should be perfectly fine.

Gambling Proceedings Distribution

Much like in Alberta, the profits generated through gambling return to the community as monetary support for funding key social elements such as health care and education first and foremost. The remainder goes to supporting local economic developments and host communities.

According to the latest Annual Service Plan Report issued by the BCLC, the company amassed C$1.347 billion in net income by the end of 2020. Admittedly, this is $59 million less than the 2018/19 segment, but such a development doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise taking into account the global pandemic that wreaked logistical havoc among all walks of businesses.

On a more humanitarian note, organizations and groups can hold fundraisers in the form of licensed gambling events. Also, British Columbia heavily invests gambling revenue in local NGOs via the Community Gaming Grant directive. The program refers but is not limited to: parent advisory councils, culture, public safety, sport, arts, and human and social service sectors.

Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch’s Recommendations

If one wants to play at an offshore casino, there are currently no legal grounds that can prevent that, nor legal repercussions from it. Make sure the online casino of your choice is properly regulated for your own safety.

On another hand, it’s not like if foreign ventures suddenly up and go there will be no gambling activity left to enjoy within British Columbia. As we’ve discussed before, there is PLayNow (the only government-owned website that delivers a somewhat varied array of such services). There, you can find slots, poker, lottery tickets, bingo, and 50/50 draws.

In terms of physical locations, however, British Columbia has a way broader offering. Depending on your choice of preferred gambling activity, you could visit:

  • Thunderbird Show Park
  • Casino of the Rockies
  • Hard Rock Casino Vancouver
  • Cascades Casino Kamloops
  • Fraser Downs Racetrack & Casino

These are just the top five gambling establishments across British Columbia, though. You can find a detailed list of all such locations within British Columbia on the BCLC official website.

What It’s Like to Play Online Slots in Alberta

Intro

While online gaming is taking the world by storm, due to the ease of access, huge diversity, overall safeness attributed to strict regulations of the digital gambling world, and complex features and mechanics that have long ago surpassed the bolts-and-nuts machines, the rules differ from one jurisdiction to another.

In Canada, there are a total of 37 gambling jurisdictions and each has its own approach to regulating the practice. Alberta is one of the most successful provinces of Canada and by extension hosts one of the largest online gambling regulatory bodies nationwide – the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission. 

But what does that mean for iGaming afficionados based or passing through Alberta?

The Albertan Approach to Online Gambling

To tackle a highly controversial matter right off the bat, let’s discuss “rogue” casinos a bit. These unlicensed casinos carry the risk of being nothing more but a front for money laundering purposes. This is just one of the major reasons strict regularization is required within the industry. There have been unfortunate cases being reported over the years, but it is safe to assume that the current online gambling climate is safe and transparent due to these mandatory prerequisites imposed on the operators.

In Alberta, not only is the online gambling environment safe, but it is also highly lucrative in regards to charitable efforts. In all of Canada, it is only here where “charitable organizations are licensed to conduct and manage casino events. Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis (AGLC) also licenses charitable organizations to fundraise through bingo, as well as selling raffle and pull tickets” – in their own words.

All Canadian provinces advertise proceedings being returned to the community in one way or another, but would it be wrong to assume that Alberta actually highly encourages gambling within its territory? And if that’s the case, would it be wrong to do so for all the many charitable purposes there are in desperate need of funding? We’ll leave you to be the judge of that. All we can say is that the government has been doing a pretty solid job in respect to turning a risky and sometimes even frowned-upon practice into a humanitarian venture since 2019 (but make no confusion, AGLC was founded back in 1996 – the charitable gaming program is just one of its latest developments).

Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission’s Main Duties

The good news so far is that AGLC-regulated casinos have been extremely well-vetted before being opened to the public. But how exactly does Alberta keep its status as one of the safest places in which to engage in gambling activities? There are 8 strong pillars that support the province’s approach to this matter:

  1. Constant overseeing of the proprietary charitable gaming model
  2. Regulating and licensing both land-based and online gaming establishments
  3. Registering the industry’s workforce
  4. Regular check-ups of gambling establishments and the services they offer
  5. Conducting regular audits on charities to ensure gambling revenue is used as intended
  6. Implementing and upkeeping gambling awareness programs (GameSense)
  7. Investigating criminal allegations in regards to the gaming activity
  8. Investing in and maintaining machinery (including lottery terminals, slot machines, electronic bingo and video lottery terminals)

Best of ALL Worlds: Proprietary Online Casino, Offshore Competition AND Land-Based Venues

The good news about getting involved in Albertan gambling does not stop at fairness and transparency. Having maintained such a firm grasp on making gambling in all forms as safe as possible for the locals, it’s only natural that Alberta draws in all kinds of gambling-related activities and businesses.

Offshore casinos reap the most benefits as they bring to the fold impressive game collections spanning hundreds if not thousands of titles. BUT – and it’s a big one because these are not necessarily regulated by AGLC, but by other internationally recognized entities – Alberta has its own online casino, too. Even though it’s not exactly on par with the foreign offering, it comes with promotions and a welcome bonus, (which is more than you can say for other Canadian counterparts).

Also, as we’ve said earlier, Alberta is in charge of upkeeping good practice among land-based cainos and racing centers, as well. Just some of the biggest ones are:

  • Century Downs Racetrack and Casino
  • Casino Calgary
  • Camrose Resort Casino
  • Casino Dene
  • Casino Edmonton

So, if you are an Alberta resident (over 19 years of age), you get to enjoy the best of all gambling worlds here, as choices are plenty!

Get in Touch with AGLC

Well, if the cliché “but hey, don’t take our word for it, see for yourself” ever worked its way naturally in a conversation, this is it.

AGLC offers support though a variety of methods, including an email form under the “Contact Us” section of the official website.

Since the AGLC has been formed through a merger that combined several regulatory bodies into one, you’ll also find a phone line dedicated to the Alberta Cannabis Call Centre. Other than that, there are several physical addresses you could visit or phone numbers you could dial to get directly in touch with the Commission, such as:

  • 50 Corriveau Avenue

St. Albert, AB T8N 3T5

Phone: 780-447-8600

  • 310, 6715 – 8 Street NE

Calgary, AB  T2E 7H7

Phone: 403-292-7300

  • 100, 11039-78 Avenue

Grande Prairie, AB  T8W 2J7

Phone: 780-832-3000

  • 3, 7965 – 49 Avenue

Red Deer, AB  T4P 2V5

Phone: 403-314-2656

  • 655 WT Hill Blvd South

Lethbridge, AB  T1J 1Y6

Phone: 403-331-6500