A Brief History Of Gambling In Canada

Adam Lane
Adam Lane
Apr 26, 2016 · 3 min read
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Today everyone like went mad about Canadian online casinos industry gambling prohibitions and restrictions. Countries with a strict governmental gambling policy somehow get along with it and generate the largest gambling revenues. China, where gambling is officially restricted, is the world’s top gaming market with revenue reached $22.2 billion, the US where gambling is semi-restricted generated $22 billion by the end of 2015. I was interested how matters go with gambling in Canada. Below is what I’ve come up with so far.

First Gambling Amendments

Prior to 1970, any type of gambling was illegal in Canada. In 1969 with the re-election of the Liberal Party under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (former Minister of Justice, who was lobbying to amend some aspects of the Criminal Code considering gambling), the House of Commons managed to pass the gambling bill. Since then federal authorities had delegated competence in gambling matters to Provincial Regulatory Authorities.

Quebec government was first who took advantage of those amendments. Quebec promptly established two Crown corporations to supervise horse racing and conduct provincial lotteries. The rest followed Quebec example. In the following decade, four more Canadian provinces set up their own regional lotteries. In 1971, Manitoba established its own lottery, Alberta and Saskatchewan did as well in 1974. British Columbia created its lottery in 1974. Moreover, British Columbia joined Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta in establishing the Western Canadian Lottery Foundation.

In 1973 Canadian federal government founded the Olympic Lottery Corporation to support forthcoming Montreal Summer Olympic Games in 1976. In the following several years with the change in political discourse, there were significant changes in the attitude towards gambling policy. At the end of 1970s conservative-ruled government insisted on provinces return for $24 million annual payment as compensation.

$24 Million Annual Compensation

Such state of matter lasted about 4 years. When The Liberal Party of Canada took office in 1980 the wind of change blew. Provinces tried to contest federal government decision in court. But Progressive Conservatives under Brian Mulroney reclaimed the office by winning a solid parliamentary majority (largest in the history of Canadian parliamentarism).

Since June 1985 provinces undertook to pay 24 million CAD annually to the federal government according to the 1979 agreement terms. And finally, in 1985 new package of gambling amendments were enacted. Provinces were empowered alone or in partnership with other provinces to conduct and operate lotteries. In other words, Canadian provinces were given exclusive authority to operate and/or license particular forms of gambling.

In 30 years since the 1985 amendment, in 2015 $2 billion total revenue was generated in the Canadian gambling industry. Today, lotteries are still huge moneymakers for Canada’s both provincial and territorial governments. Gambling in Canada has expanded to include ticket lotteries, horse racing, charitable gaming (including bingo), casino-style gambling, video lottery terminals. Yet not all these forms of gambling are available everywhere in Canada.

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