Back in 1895, when automobile mechanic Charles Fey introduced America to the first mechanical slot machine that was even remotely like slot machines today, slot machines were not only unknown in Canada, but would have been completely banned if available. Slot machines, like most other forms of gambling, except for horseracing, were very slow to appear in Canada, but today that fact is hard to believe. Over the last two decades, this country has more than made up for lost time. Slots are now a booming multi-billion dollar business in Canada, and online gambling, by providing easy 24/7 access to Canadians who don’t live in commuting distance to a land-based casino, has made slot play bigger and more popular than ever. More than 75% of Canadian adults participate in some form of gambling.
In 1892 the Canadian federal government enacted the Criminal Code, a set of very strict laws specifying what types of behaviour constituted criminal offences in Canada. Among the forbidden activities were virtually every form of gambling except for horseracing. Over the years, a few more forms of gambling became permissible, first gambling for charity and later, lotteries used to fund designated activities.
It was not until 1985, however, that an amendment was passed giving individual provincial governments the authority to allow and oversee both video lottery terminals and slot machines. Even today, rather than there being a single set of laws pertaining to slot machines applicable to all of Canada, each province and territory has its own say regarding whether slot machines are legal and, if so, where and how they are to be operated.
Canada is divided up into 10 provinces and three territories, each of which is governed by its own set of gambling regulations. All of the provinces, with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador now have at least one land-based casino, but of the three territories, only Yukon has a casino. Casino size and number of slot machines varies greatly. Some of the casinos are conveniently situated in major cities or popular tourist destinations, while others are in out of the way locations. Many Canadian casinos are First Nation casinos operating on First Nation Indian reservations. In addition, horseracing tracks all over the country now offer “racinos” which also provide slot machines or a similar form of gambling called video lottery terminals (VLTs). The three Canadian localities that have no casino have VLTs instead. The main difference between VLTs and traditional slots is that VLT machines are linked together and preprogramed to pay out at a specific time, with the number of winners also predetermined.
The oldest legal casino in Canada is Diamond Tooth Gerties in Yukon Territory, which has been operating since 1971 although slots were not introduced until years later. There are only 64 slots in the whole casino, which may be closed more days of the year than it is open. The casino is only open 7 days a week between May and September. Between February and April, the casino is open Thursday through Saturday only, and from October through January the casino is not open at all.
Most Canadian land-based casinos do stay open year-round, but 24/7 gambling is the exception rather than the rule, although some casinos stay open round the clock on weekends. The following is a brief summary of some of the better known land-based casinos in each province and what they have to offer slot players.
The province of Alberta is home to about 20 land-based casinos. However, most of them are quite small, with 400 or fewer machines. One of the larger casinos is Deerfoot Inn and Casino in Calgary, which has 676 slots with denominations ranging from pennies to $5 and a high limit slot room in the planning stage. There are also several casinos with over 600 slot machines in Edmonton.
There are 17 casinos in the province of British Columbia. River Rock Casino Resort is one of the largest with over 1,100 slots.
The two major gambling facilities in Manitoba are the McPhillips Station Casino with 1,565 slot machines and the Club Regent Casino, with approximately 1,200 machines, both in Winnipeg. Both facilities have been operating since 1993.
The province of New Brunswick has only one licensed casino, Casino Brunswick. The facility has 603 slot machines.
Casino Nova Scotia has two locations, one in Halifax with 631 slot machines and a smaller casino in Sydney with just 199 slot machines. Both casinos have been operating since 1995.
Ontario has lots of options for slots players. In addition to several midsize gambling halls, many small slot parlours, and 17 racinos, there are three world class casinos. Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls has more than 3,000 slots. Caesar’s Windsor, one of the many Caesars owned Total Rewards resorts, is located across the river from Detroit and offers about 2,300 slots. Casino Roma, 85 miles north of downtown Ontario, has more than 2,500 slots. All three casinos have slots in a wide variety of dominations, catering to every level of player. Or players can head for the slot parlour at Woodbine Racetrack and take their pick of more than 2,000 slots and other electronic gaming devices.
Prince Edwards Island
Slot players in Prince Edwards Island have to settle for a much more limited choice. The Red Shores Racetrack and Casino, with just 200 slot machines in denominations from 1 cent to $1 is the only casino in town.
Casino de Montreal with 3,000 slots is a major gambling destination for locals and tourists alike.
The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gambling Authority operates two casinos in the province. The larger of the two is Casino Regina with 750 slot machines. There are also six First Nation casinos in Saskatchewan.
Online Slots in Canada for Real Money
Online gambling has been available in Canada since the 1990s. However, the choice of sites back then was nowhere near what it is today. The laws pertaining to online gambling in Canada are very complicated, and like the regulations that apply to land-based gambling, vary from one province to another. The legal status of Canadian online gambling is in fact similar to the current status in the United Sates. While land-based slot machines in the U.S. are legal in all but a handful of states, only three of the 50 states currently have their own state run legal online gambling sites and only two states, New Jersey and Delaware, operate sites that allow slot play. Similarly, while almost every provincial government in Canada has legalised some form of land-based slots, to date only four provinces—British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec– have their own sites where their residents can play slots online.
Of course, the people who live in parts of Canada without provincially run sites where their residents can play legally use other methods to play slots online. And the same is true for many people who do have access to a website exclusively for residents of that province, but prefer not to use it. The way these people play is the same way many people from the U.S. gamble online, and that is to use foreign based websites that are open to players from their country. Or another alternative is to play on one of the online casinos licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, located in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake just outside of Montreal. At least 30 online casinos are licensed by the Kahnawake Commission, which requires them to have offices on Kahnawake property and use their servers. All of these casinos accept Canadian players, and some of them like Bovada, Slots lv, and Golden Tiger are very well known.
There is no law in Canada that forbids Canadians to use either the Kahnawake or foreign based websites, so the decision to use them or not is left to the individual player. Many foreign online casinos specifically market to Canadian players. For example, French, as well as English, is a supported language, and the Canadian dollar is accepted as currency. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Canadians play online slots for real money on foreign licensed websites, and to date, no one has ever been prosecuted as a result.
There are many reasons why online slots have become extremely popular with Canadians. The most obvious is the great convenience. Some provinces and territories have only one casino that might be a long distance away from a person’s home, or no casino at all. Furthermore, while at major land-based casinos in the U.S. and many other big gambling meccas, 24 hour gambling is a given, that is not the case in Canada. Most Canadian land-based casinos are not open 24/7. Some close as early as midnight and do not open till 11 a.m., noon, or even later the next day. That leaves no place to play during the early morning hours. Another problem is the harsh winter in Canada, frequently making travel to a land-based casino impossible.
The reason why many Canadians prefer to play slots on the foreign based sites even if they live in a province offering residents its own site is that the Canadian sites are not in a position to offer the same caliber of incentives. The Canadian sites cannot match the potentially huge Welcome Bonuses and tremendous selection of games that the huge international online casinos like Spin Palace, Ruby Fortune, Betway, and Royal Vegas, just to name a few, provide. All of the casinos just mentioned, like many other top of the line casinos, are powered by the most up-to-date software from Microgaming, so every month they receive Microgaming’s newly released slot games in addition to the hundreds of slot games they are offering already. As if that isn’t enough reason to play, progressive slot players can take a shot at the massive Microgaming multi-casino shared progressive jackpots with payouts that can be life changing.