Gambling: The Canadian Way

Gambling: The Canadian Way

Legal gambling can be found in all ten of Canada’s provinces.

Since Canada’s population is concentrated along the northern border of the United States, and given the ease of travel back and forth across the U.S.-Canada border, gambling available in Canada (in particular, casinos in the 1990s) is gambling available to residents of the United States.

All Canadian provinces have a lottery, and most of them were developed in the 1980s. As U.S. border states legalized lotteries, provincial governments saw Canadian dollars moving across the border, so they developed their own lotteries to keep the money at home.

In 1996, total lottery sales in Canada were $6.98 billion. Provincial government profits are used for a variety of purposes, including health services, education, recreation, promotion of tourism, economic development, support of charities, and to increase general revenues.

Every province also has pari-mutuel racing. In Canada, racing is limited to thoroughbred horse and harness racing.

There is no greyhound dog racing. In 1996, the total handle (the amount of money wagered) on pari-mutuel racing was $1.77 billion (Canadian).

Charitable gambling is also legal in every province. In most cases quasi-permanent casinos operate on a nearly continuous basis with the charity changing from time to time.

In Manitoba, these establishments became so popular that the provincial governments decided to license permanent casinos.

Their popularity in British Columbia also led to the creation of a permanent casino that opened in 1997.

Six provinces have casinos, all opened since since 1993. The casino that has the most impact on the United States is in Windsor , Ontario, across the river from Detroit.

It is easily accessed from Detroit (via bridge or tunnel) by car and bus services. The casino has 2,672 slot machines and 117 table games, and averages 16,500 customers per day. The majority of customers come from the United States.

The casino’s popularity with residents of the Detroit area was a factor in the passage of a referendum in November 1996 to construct three casinos in Detroit. The total handle for Canadian casinos is not available, but total casino revenue in 1996 was $1.1 billion.

Casino Niagara, located in Ontario and just across the border from Niagara Falls, New York, will undoubtedly draw customers from New York.

During its first twenty-two days of operation, Casino Niagara averaged 20,600 customers per day. It has 2,995 slot machines and 123 table games.

Consequently, more of the profits from casinos go to the government than in the United States, where states tax casinos revenues between 3 and 20 percent, but private companies own the casinos.

Canadian lotteries follow the U.S. model. They are owned by the provinces, but (unlike U.S. state lotteries) they share a portion of their revenues with the federal government,

There is also a major difference in how Canada handles gambling winnings. They are not taxed, since governments already are the primary beneficiaries of lotteries.