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The Evolution of Online Gambling in Canada

by Louise W. Rice

Recently, Canada Infolink stated that the country ranks eighth globally in online gambling. Who could’ve guessed Canadians have an undeniable flair for blackjack and roulette?

It’s also interesting that Canucks take so much pride in their iGaming industry that they spend four times more money gambling at Canadian online casinos than offshore ones. And without a doubt, Canadians love their slot machines!

But how did an industry that only got authorized within the country in 1969 ascend to such popularity? Today, we’re taking a deep dive into the history of online gambling in Canada, all the way back to the first-ever national virtual casino.

1969 – A Turning Point

The Canadian Criminal Code was the first official document to mention gambling in Canada. In the twentieth century, or 1892 to be more specific, the country enacted it to prohibit an activity that posed a danger to society.

Therefore, it wasn’t until 1969 that Canadians could gamble without repercussions. That year, the government added an amendment to the Canadian Criminal Code to change the legal status of gambling.

The first lottery was held in 1974 to raise funds for the Montreal Olympics. A few years after this event came the first commercial casino in Winnipeg.

The Late 90s – Canadian Gambling Goes Digital

For several decades, land-based casinos thrived without competition that could threaten their viability. During this time, Canadians were so immersed with brick-and-mortar casinos that they started popping up on every corner. From that point on, they could freely play the lottery and other forms of gambling.

Finally, things took a turn in the early 90s, when technology upended the world. Technology advancement was so rapid that it didn’t take long for the gambling industry to catch up with the birth of the World Wide Web in 1990.

Microgaming, presently known as an iGaming industry giant, pioneered the first online casino and the first virtual slot games. Soon after this discovery, the first online casinos Canada players can access was born.

In 2004, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation launched Canada’s first legal online casino, PlayNow.com. Following this event, the province of British Columbia opened an online casino, and Quebec launched an online poker room.

However, these sites are of the very few online casinos in Canada that operate only because the government has authorized them.

The Problems Regarding Online Gambling in Canada

When the first online casinos in Canada emerged, they couldn’t match the diversity land-based casinos brought. The game variety was heavily limited, and let’s remember that this technological development happened when very few people had access to the Internet.

The laws regarding online casinos in Canada were not in place yet, so the line between legal and illegal was blurry. It’s safe to say online gambling was not off to a good start.

Despite the fact that virtual casinos have been a thing for more than twenty years, Canadian authorities are still setting ground rules for their regulation. Not all Canadian provinces are allowed to kickstart an online gambling business. For a while, all Canadians had to play at casinos regulated outside of the country.

The Safe and Regulated Sports Act

In February 2021, the Canadian House of Commons enacted Bill C-221, commonly known as the Safe and Regulated Sports Act. It essentially made changes to the Criminal Code.

This enactment aims to change how the Canadian government views and regulates online gambling in individual provinces. So, instead of Canada governing this sector as a whole, regions are now able to set their own ground rules. That includes changing the legal gambling age, allowing single bets, and so on.

Since the government passed the bill, Ontario has become the first Canadian province to regulate betting sectors popular in most countries worldwide.

Trends That Will Revolutionize Canadian Online Casinos

Since the bill’s passage, we can expect to see many more Canadian-based online casinos pop up. But this time, these digital venues will include trends Canadians previously had to seek at offshore casinos. Check out some of the trends that are to change online gambling in Canada forever:

Cryptocurrency Transactions

Recently, more and more online casinos have been introducing cryptocurrencies as means of payment. Players can deposit and withdraw through Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and some other notable digital currencies.

The primary advantage these currencies pose is full anonymity; they are untraceable! Thus, players feel safer transferring money to online casinos through them. There is no record that a player has ever gambled at the casino.

The VR Experience

A decade ago, players were satisfied placing bets and spinning the reels at online casinos. People could gamble from the comfort of their homes, and they were hooked! Still, part of the global population continued visiting land-based casinos for the physical experience they provide.

However, thanks to the digital advancement of the gambling industry, you can now have a full-on gambling experience right there in your living room. Gambling brands have started introducing VR casinos where players can wander through the casino halls, check out roulette tables, and feel the casino spirit!

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is a relatively new technology. However, people finally got a taste of it in 2015 when Pokemon GO became a global sensation. That means augmented reality happens in the real world but with a digital information overlay.

So far, no online casino has introduced this concept, but considering people thoroughly enjoyed chasing pokemon balls on the streets, it’s very likely it’ll become a thing very, very soon.

Virtual Sports Betting

People have been betting since the dawn of time, but wagering on virtual sports became a trend only recently. Gamers now earn liveable income from competitive gaming alone, so it makes sense many people would be interested in betting on virtual sports tournaments.


So, what does all this mean for the future of Canadian online gambling? Well, more freedom for gamblers, for starters. The bill’s passage has forced Canadians to put their money into their budget instead of taking their business to offshore casinos. Most Canadian bettors are now able to place single bets within their province, too.

Finally, the introduction of many novel technologies in gambling will permanently alter Canadian online casinos. They will provide superior technology, increased player safety, and a more pleasurable betting experience!

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