Gambling In Canada

Gambling in Cananda

Gambling defined: “gambling is the betting of something of value on the outcome of a contingency or event, the result of which is uncertain and may be determined by chance, skill a combination of chance and skill, or a contest.”

It is believed that long before Europeans arrived on Canadian shores that the indigenous people of Canada enjoyed games of chance. Gambling, or some would say risk taking is a part of the human make-up. Even before decks of cards were played as a pastime native peoples enjoyed gaming sticks. The love of games of chance and skill continue to be a major part of the Canadian people in 2017.

Some Of Canada's Gambling History

Gambling History in Canada

Things started long before online gambling, though. Betting in Canada is as old as the country itself, but over the years there have been important changes in the laws governing the activity. The Criminal Code based on the English laws that Canada adopted at the time of its confederation in 1867 resulted in a highly negative view of gambling and very little tolerance for it. In 1892, a complete ban was declared on most forms of gambling in Canada, except for horseracing.

Little by little, the ban was lifted. For example, an initial exception was made to allow gambling for charity. Then, in 1969, the Criminal Code was amended to allow both the federal government and provincial governments to use lotteries to fund activities considered to be worthwhile, such as the 1976 Montreal Olympics, for example.

When it became apparent to the federal government how much money these ventures were bringing in, new interest was awakened in expanding the gambling offerings. Accordingly, in 1985, another Amendment to the Criminal Code allowed provincial governments to offer and oversee video lottery terminals and slot machines.

Canadian gambling has become much more widespread, but to this day, the 10 provinces and 3 territories each maintain exclusive control over the gambling in their region. Because of the tight rein over its own sector on the part of the separate provinces and territories, both the types of gambling that are legal and the minimum age vary in Canada depending on the location. There is little indication that anything is going to change in 2017.

The minimum age for gambling anywhere in Canada is 18, but in most regions, it is 19. Ticket lotteries, horse racing, and charitable gambling are legal in all 13 localities, while casino gambling is legal everywhere but New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Slot machines, either at casinos or racetracks, are permitted everywhere except for the above four locations. Video lottery terminals are everywhere in Canada but Ontario and British Columbia.

Online gambling in Canada began back in the 1990’s. The Canada-based Kahnawake Gaming Commission, established in 1996, oversees all of the online gambling in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, situated just outside of Montreal. In addition, since 1999, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission has been issuing licenses to many online gambling venues to do business with Canadian customers.

Gambling's Legal Status

The legality of these activities has been challenged in the courts. The Mohawks of Kahnawake claim that according to Canada’s Constitution Act of 1982, as a sovereign nation, it is their “aboriginal right” to issue licenses to foreign providers. Although the courts have ruled otherwise, the casinos continue to operate. Currently, there are about 30 online gambling casinos with Kahnawake issued licenses, based on Kahnawake property and using their servers, and accepting Canadian players.

Technically, online gambling is considered illegal in Canada unless it is on a site that is actually run by one of the 10 provinces and restricted to the residents of that province. Some provinces are doing just that; they each have their own corporation which oversees all aspects of online gambling in its jurisdiction. The 1985 Amendment to the Canadian Criminal Code had already allowed each province to regulate slot games and other computer forms of gambling. Although that was long before there was Internet Gambling, individual provinces have interpreted the amendment to mean that they could also regulate online poker and other casino games. However, many foreign based providers have opened up their casinos to Canadians, and the government takes a very lax attitude about the whole situation.

Meanwhile, regardless of the legality issues surrounding the act of running the casino, it is not illegal for Canadians to play online at authorized sites and the number of gamblers flocking to land-based casinos and online gambling shows no signs of slowing in 2017.

Gambling in Canada Today

Gambling in Canada

Gaming in Canada is a highly acceptable form of pastime. Most Canadians are able to play the game without entering into the addiction zone and that keeps the gambling industry and social climate a healthy one for the most part. Much has changed since the 70’s when the organized casino industry was born with the first commercial casino in Winnipeg. It didn’t take very long before casinos were popping up in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Montreal, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. In addition to the land based casinos Video Lottery Terminals were also in place across the nation. As far back as the early 80’s Canadians were betting over $1.1 billion annually on horseracing. Over the span of ten years Canada’s revenue from all forms of accountable gambling in the country has gone from $5.3 billion USD to $6.2 billion USD.

Virtually every form of gambling that exists today is available to Canadians: land based gambling include the lottery, casino and online gambling, horse racing, slot machines at racetracks, video games, and gambling for charity. More than 135,000 Canadians are employed in the gambling industry. In addition, according to the Canadian Gaming Association, online gambling alone is generating more than a billion Canadian dollars in revenue annually. It is estimated that at least 76% of adult Canadians engage in some form of gambling. Canada despite some regulations is one of the most gambling friendly countries in the world.

Problem Gambling in Canada

Responsible Gambling in Canada

On the one hand, online gambling is proving to be a great source of revenue for the Canadian Government. On the other hand, the fact that the activity is so widespread throughout the country is cause for concern. However, the situation is unlikely to change. The Canadian Government would face the same huge stumbling blocks as the governments of many other countries if there were to be any serious attempt on its part to stop the trend. It would be very difficult for the government to block online gambling, even from illegal sites, because of the difficulties both in blocking individual players’ online access to the sites and in prosecuting companies based in other countries.

A comprehensive research study of Internet gambling prevalence and patterns among Canadians as compared to online gamblers elsewhere was undertaken by the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre to provide further information on the extent of problem gambling in Canada. The data covered the period from January, 2006-June, 2007 and were based on two separate surveys. One set of findings was based on a self-selected sample of over 12,000 adults from 105 countries (76% from the United States, 9% from Canada, and 3% from the UK) completing an online questionnaire. The data for the other survey came from a randomly selected sample of 8,498 Canadian adults including 6,010 gamblers and 299 Internet gamblers. The surveys examined attitude toward gambling, motivation for gambling online, and game playing patterns.

The following were some of the important findings.

  • The prevalence of problem gambling was 3-4 times higher among Internet gamblers than non-Internet gamblers (17.1% vs. 4.1% for Canadians and 16.6% vs. 5.7% internationally).
  • Internet problem gamblers also reported a much higher monthly gambling expenditure than non-Internet problem gamblers.
  • All persons reporting Internet gambling also reported land-based gambling.

The results of the online self-administered survey revealed the following factors as the strongest predictors of whether a person had an online gambling problem:

  • Higher gambling expenditure
  • Mental health problems
  • Family history of problem gambling
  • Lower household income
  • History of other addictions

In addition, the following demographic picture emerged with regard to those Canadians most likely to gamble online.

  • 82% male with an average age of 35.5 (vs. age 45.7 internationally)
  • Highest incidence in British Columbia and New Brunswick where land-based casinos are not permitted
  • Higher reported incidence of tobacco and/or alcohol or illicit drug use among those Canadians who gambled online vs. those who did not

Poker was found to be the most popular form of online gambling both in Canada and worldwide. In addition, Canadian online gamblers who were classified as “problem gamblers” reported poker as the form of gambling which was causing the biggest problem, while non-Internet problem gamblers in Canada said that slot machine were causing the biggest problem.

Help With Gambling Issues

Only about 8% of all Internet problem gamblers admitted to seeking help. However, the majority of these gamblers indicated that they would prefer face to face counseling rather than receiving their counseling online as well.

On the other hand, despite the finding that online gambling seems to exacerbate the degree of a gambling problem among those affected, it is probably not the main cause of the problem. Most heavy Internet gamblers have already been gambling heavily and online gambling is just another format added to their repertoire.

One of the organizations that is addressing the problem is the Canadian Partnership for Responsible Gambling. The Partnership consists of non-profit organizations, gambling providers, and research centres working together to increase awareness and reduce the risk of problem gambling.

Land-based Canadian casinos are making more of an effort to address the problem as well. Along with responsible gambling programs that allow players to exclude themselves, they have trained staff who will intervene if they see that someone has a problem. Unfortunately, there is less control with online gambling. However, a gambling prevention campaign in Ontario called Safe or Sorry has been actively targeting 18-24 year old males who play online poker.

The following are some of the other resources that are currently available, both on the national and provincial level, for those who need help with a gambling problem.

And Now?

Currently there are well over 36,300,000. That number has continued to climb at an approximate 1% annually over the past 20 years or more. There are little signs of slowing and every indication that physical and online gambling will continue to bring in vast revenues for Canada in coming years.

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