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Canada’s booming online poker industry

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Since the early days of civilisation, people have come together to play games of chance and there is evidence dating back hundreds of years to suggest that they have been betting on the outcomes for roughly as long. The response to this has varied significantly over the years with various authorities, from governments to religions, endorsing and condemning the practice in almost equal measure.

As gaming became an established industry and casinos attracted more and more players, it became clear that governments would need to put legislation in place to regulate these operations. The approaches varied across jurisdictions, with some countries embracing the opportunity to generate a steady income from taxation and others making provision for specific forms of gaming and betting.

The history of gambling in Canada

Although the United States casino and gaming industry has a well-publicised history, leading to the establishment of the most famous gaming city of Las Vegas, Canada’s gambling industry also has an interesting provenance. There is evidence that the indigenous people of Canada used sticks for games that involved betting in the earliest days of the country’s history.

Early colonisers introduced their own forms of gambling, starting with John Cabot’s voyage to Canada in 1497 during which playing cards were introduced. The games that the travellers played included faro, a precursor to blackjack and poker, that soon proliferated throughout the country as people taught each other the rules.

Dice games came next, and Canadian dice players developed their own version of craps known as barbotte that was played widely throughout the country. At this point, the government was taking a hands-off approach to gambling, choosing to involve itself very little in the industry.

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By the late 1800s, the tide changed and the Canadian government sought to impose some limits on the gambling industry, so in 1892, lawmakers produced the ‘Canadian Criminal Code’, an official document which effectively outlawed some forms of gambling. This effectively rendered many forms of gambling illegal throughout Canada, permitting others under certain conditions.

By 1910, it became clear that gambling was still a popular pastime, and the laws were revised to allow other forms of gaming. In 1969, the criminal code was altered once again to legalise all forms of gambling once more and use the demand for gaming opportunities as a means to generate an income for the country’s coffers.

After the first casino was built in Canada in 1989, land-based casinos flourished and players could happily get their fix of a range of traditional games including:

  • Roulette
  • Craps
  • Poker
  • Blackjack
  • Baccarat
  • Slots

Casinos offered these games to players that wanted to test their luck and there were plenty of people that made the most of the opportunity to try and win big. However, the face of gaming changed completely when casino games were first digitised in the 1990s.

Online gaming in Canada

As home computers became more widespread and the internet became a reality, casino games became available online. There are now gambling sites which specialise in certain casino games for example, at, Canadians can choose from a range of online poker games to play.

Land-based casino gaming had paved the way for a thriving online gaming industry with nationwide enthusiasm for the digital counterparts of players’ favourite games.

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This new era of gaming represented an unprecedented situation for the Canadian government as it tried to negotiate its way through the legislation that would regulate this burgeoning new industry. The technology involved was in its infancy and the number of casino games available was limited, but there was already a clear need for regulation to ensure that operators offered players a fair and safe environment in which to enjoy these new games.

Players can check the credentials of any site they use to ensure that it is properly licensed and confirm that it is operated in a fair and safe manner. Regulations require gaming operators to take any complaints seriously and maintain a robust approach to customer service.

The growth of online gaming in Canada

The Canadian government wasn’t alone in their struggle to find ways to regulate this new industry, as global powers all scrambled to find ways to ensure that the online sphere was as well regulated as land-based casinos. Even in countries where local regulations restricted the use of online casinos, off-shore sites were usually available to players that wanted to bypass their own country’s laws.

As so many other countries found, the only way the government could ensure that online gaming was safe and fair was to establish a gaming commission to oversee and regulate activity in the online sphere. The Canadian Gaming Association is the trade association that was founded in 2005 to represent the gaming industry, including esports and sports betting as well as casino games operators and suppliers.

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As the number of physical and online casinos grew, Canada gained a good international reputation for firm-but-fair legislation that recognised casino gaming as a popular pastime. The Gaming Association attracted members from all over the world and Canada became known for having a friendly online scene that welcomed players from all over the world,

Canadian gaming sites provide players with games such as poker that they can play in a safe environment and be reassured that their details are secure and the games are all overseen by an official regulator. With more than seventy per cent of Canadians participating in some form of online gambling each year, and a rapidly growing mobile market, the support that the industry has received has allowed it to thrive.

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