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The History Of Gambling In Canada

Canadian history has been called boring, especially when compared to the epic tales stemming from the USA. While America had a full-blown violent revolution, Canada came into its own passively and amicably a century later. We even have the queen on our money to prove it, and she's held up remarkably well.

Even in the realm of gambling, the USA had gun-slinging cowboys gambling after dark during the California gold rush. While the Yukon had its share of gold and no shortage of migrant card players building the railroad, Hollywood hasn't embraced our mythology. Of course it really comes down to who is telling the story and how real you aim for it to be.

That Was Then

Long before John Cabot landed on what are now Canadian shores, aboriginals enjoyed games of chance with underlying spiritual elements. You might say that lady luck is older than Canada and humankind itself. The very idea of humans thriving on Earth is the biggest crapshoot of all.

By 1892 the federal government of the day had banned all forms of gambling imaginable, which is hard to believe given how every conceivable form had whittled its way back into Canadian life. If you are a gambling fan, you can thank the Liberal government of the 1970s for overhauling the criminal code. Wagering became the domain of the provinces at that time.

The Provinces Are Game

As you can probably guess, the provinces saw dollar signs. When you factor in looser attitudes and a cash windfall for the government, it's actually hard to believe it took so long, but provincial lotteries finally arrived. From weekly draws and scratch tickets, Canadians quickly proved they knew how to dream big.

Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, Canadians flocked in droves to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and the Caribbean for gambling vacations. Despite the distance and expense, Canadians proved they weren't as stuffy or conservative as the world thought. While thoroughbred horse racing was widely popular, it was only a matter of time before the first casino opened on Canadian soil.

Doors Wide Open

In 1989 the first Canadian casino opened in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Those in Montreal got in the action four years later, and Ontario, and Saskatchewan followed later in the decade. These days casinos operate in all provinces except New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island, but you probably shouldn't bet against these jurisdictions joining the party.

Canadian casinos thrived in the 1990s, especially those in towns that bordered the USA. The influx of tax revenue from the United States helped several provinces balance their budgets, at least until those border states legalized gambling. Yes, they built their own casinos to keep a piece of their own pie!

Modern Perspectives And Challenges

You can tell attitudes towards fun, vices, and even the addictions they may bring have changed drastically. Just look at provinces that operate video lottery terminals, which lack the basic safety nets you can find in traditional casinos or even online. At the same time several provinces have created their own online casinos and poker rooms to tap into the global online scene. Is it a case of if you can't beat them join them? Maybe the provinces are just giving the people who elected them exactly what they want. Either way the options Canadians have today are incredible.

In order to appease mental health and addiction experts, Canadian casinos are required to embrace responsible gaming mandates. These include placing limits on players who have a problem, although many of these measures require players to sign up for self-exclusion. In the end the Canadian public decided that it's better to treat the small number of gambling addicts who can't control themselves than place a ban on a form of entertainment that millions of Canadians have no trouble enjoying responsibly.

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