Canada’s online casino fans may be indulging in very modern entertainment, but it is part of a tradition that goes back millennia. In 1497, when Genoan explorer John Cabot arrived in North America on behalf of King Henry VII of England, he discovered that the local inhabitants played a variety of games of chance, including some that involved specially made gambling sticks.

He shouldn’t have been surprised; like most cultures worldwide since time immemorial, the native peoples of Canada also have a place in their lives for gambling and luck. Recreation and the fun of winning are part of the appeal, but the gambling games of the first peoples also had ritual significance; they were used for divination, emotional and mental development, or spiritual guidance. It may be shorn of obvious spiritual elements, but the modern-day online casino traces its development all the way back to our earliest games of chance.

Gaming Unregulated before 1892

The arrival in Canada of settlers from Europe didn’t advance the sophistication of gambling games much. The first pioneers were travelling trappers, traders and prospectors, with portability being a priority, so cards and dice were their preferred gaming tools. With both the French and the English colonising the territory, forerunners of poker, blackjack and craps, games that today are found in any online casino worth its salt, arrived in Canada by the 16th Century.

Colonist farmers followed, as cities began to grow around trading posts. They brought with them other forms of wagering that they enjoyed in Europe. Bingo and lottery games are still popular in Canada to this day, and are also available at online casinos, lotteries and bingo halls.

Horse racing was also a popular pastime, and informal races were held since the earliest European settlement. The Quebec Turf Club, formed in 1789 in Montreal, and the Upper Canada Turf Club, founded in Toronto in 1837, formalised racing for both French and English Canadians, and by the time all 10 provinces and three territories were united as a self-governing dominion of the British Empire in 1867, betting on the races was another popular diversion.

From Prohibition to Social Benefit

All forms of gambling were officially banned in Canada in 1892. Luckily for modern online casino players, there were loopholes left in the law that allowed games of chance, as long as a percentage of the profits went to charitable causes or social development. This allowed horse racing to survive, as did bingo halls and raffles. Fairs and exhibitions could also offer certain gambling games.

In 1970, the Canadian federal government accepted the evidence that legal, regulated online gambling can have social benefits, and changed the law to allow each Canadian province or territory to make its own laws regarding gambling. All regional authorities have since legalised provincial lotteries, using the proceeds on education, healthcare and social upliftment. Land-based casinos, also owned by provincial governments, followed in 1989. Since 1999, Canada’s gaming fans have had access to online casinos as well as no deposit microgaming casinos for mobile.

Kahnawake Gaming Commission Led the Way

Coming full circle back to indigenous games of chance, it was the Mohawk Council of the Territory of Kahnawake that first brought online casino entertainment to Canada. Canadian courts recognise the Kahnawake people’s “aboriginal rights” to make their own laws in their territory, which allows the Kahnawake Gaming Commission to boost the community’s income by licensing and regulating online casinos. Since then, several provinces have licensed online casinos of their own through a tender system, so Canadians can enjoy casino games on Internet-enabled devices anytime.

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