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History of Indian Casinos in Canada

Recently updated on November 18th, 2022 at 04:18 pm

Intro to Native Casinos in Canada

Native casinos in Canada iconCasino gambling is a popular activity among people around the world, and it has been so for several centuries now—one of the countries where this multi-billion dollar industry is thriving is Canada.

In 2021, the gambling industry in Canada made a revenue of $2.65 billion, with over 75% of Canadians participating in some kind of gambling activity. This includes the Indigenous people from Canada, where the majority of these people gamble on a regular basis.

But, gambling wasn’t always available for the Indians in Canada, as they weren’t allowed to run gambling clubs. So, in this article, we will focus on the Native casinos in Canada, describing everything there is to know about their history.

Native Gambling in Canada Before the Casinos

Indigenous tipi in CanadaThe indigenous people from Canada practiced gambling long before Canada was even an Indigenous country. In 1497, John Cabot, an Italian explorer, discovered an Indian population that was playing certain games of chance.

Those games of chance were supposed to help the Indigenous people with their mental, spiritual, and physical development. But Cabot wasn’t aware of the fact that the Aboriginal people from Canada have been gambling on different thing like sticks and stones, and for thousands of years.

At that time, Aboriginal gambling didn’t include dice and cards for the featured games. Instead, they used sticks, stones, and bones from deer or other animals to conduct the games, but the basic idea was gambling.

One of the gambling games these people used to play and are still playing today is called Slahal. This game has several aspects to it, from family recreation and a sacred ritual to winning money from it.

After Cabot claimed the territory of Canada for England, it went under British rule with all of its laws in effect on the newly acquired territory. Unfortunately, that meant gambling was made illegal in Canada because Richard II prohibited several dice games in England in 1338.

When the Europeans arrived in the New World in the 18th and 19th centuries, they brought with them some of the most popular gambling games that are still being played today, blackjack, baccarat, and roulette. This has opened a new chapter in the history of gambling for the Aboriginal people.

Legalizing Gambling in Canada

In 1892, the Canadian Criminal Code allowed gambling in the provinces under a few conditions. However, it is worth noting that the Canadian Criminal Code was still held in force by the English common law.

In one of the Canadian Criminal Code there was conditions to ban all native Canadian gambling. But, this ban didn’t last very long as the ideas about gambling changed over time.

In 1910, pari-mutuel betting was allowed following a new amendment, which is a betting system where all placed bets are collected together in a pool. The literal translation to this term is “to wager amongst ourselves,” and it was mostly used for betting on horse races at the racetracks.

This amendment has also permitted occasional games of luck, such as bingo and raffles, where the profits were used for charity and religious purposes. Later on, in 1925, the fairs and exhibitions were permitted to host gambling-related events.

In the years that followed, there were several gambling laws were amended, but little has changed in terms of the overall gambling laws. They remained relatively unchanged until 1969, when the Canadian government concluded that lotteries could be an excellent way to get extra government income.

That year the Criminal Code was amended to permit federal and provincial governments to organize and run lotteries, where the collected money would be used to fund different types of projects.

In 1985, the Canadian government allowed provinces to control gambling activities within their jurisdictions. Sports betting in Canada was finally allowed, but not betting on single games. Provinces were given more rights to set up their own establishments that would offer:

Gaming was carried out on the reserves of the Aboriginal people in Canada during the negotiations over the Federal-Provincial Agreement in 1985. But, this fact didn’t result in a seat at the negotiating table, as the new division of powers was dictated to the Aboriginal people in Canada without any consultation.

Indigenous Gambling Issues in Canada

In order to help economically develop the Indigenous communities in Canada, the Canadian First Nations have campaigned for the right to operate their own casino establishment on tribal lands. First Nations claimed that they had aboriginal rights to offer gambling services.

According to Section 35 (1) of the Constitution Act of Canada 1982, Aboriginal rights were extended in terms of protection, which includes a right to self-government. However, this act has been of little assistance to Indigenous governments seeking to regulate gambling activities on their lands.

In the 1990s, the First Nations lost their initial battle when the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that commercial gambling wasn’t part of their culture and that the self-government rights associated with gambling weren’t protected by section 35 (1) of the Constitution Act of Canada.

Gambling has traditionally been part of the Indigenous cultures in Canada for thousands of years. The native gambling games such as sticks and bones games, games of chance, horse racing, and foot racing, were used as social events to bring many different communities together, including redistribution of wealth.

The Canadian government did come to an agreement with Frist Nations that would allow their communities to conduct gambling on their lands. But, provincial approval was required for any kind of gambling operation in the featured province.

On June 10th, 1995, the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) was created by the Federation of Soverign Indigenous Nations Inc. (FSIN) under the First Nations Gaming Act.

Several months later, on January 11th 1996, SIGA was incorporated under the Non-Profit Corporation Act of Saskatchewan (PDF file) and was constructed as a charitable corporation.

The Aboriginal right to organize and regulate gambling establishments and on-reserve playing operations wasn’t excluded from the Canadian Gaming laws. That meant that the provinces were able to impose regulations on the gambling houses from the First Nations.

After a certain province grants approval, Indian casinos in Canada can be legally established and offer their gambling services to interested players. There are currently dozens of First Nations land-based casinos that have signed agreements with their featured provincial government.

The gambling activities that feature in these land-based casinos offer a wide variety of gaming activities that include ceremonial games as well as Las Vegas-style of casino games.

It is worth noting that the current Indigenous opinion if gambling is good or bad vary in Canada. A recent survey study that of urban Indigenous people in Canada found that the majority of them think that Indian casinos were morally wrong and that gambling harm is outweighed by the good.

On the other hand, other communities of Aboriginal people believe that practicing gambling in moderation way is harmless and good hobby that is grounded in the tradition of Indigenous people in Canada.

Despite these studies showing different results, most Indigenous people in Canada practiced gambling in 2021, which goes somewhere between 60% and 90%.

In Canada, Indigenous people, which consist of First Nation, Metis, and Inuit, are 2 to 4 times more likely to practice gambling when compared to mainstream Canadians.

The Native Casinos in Canada

Map of Canada Showing all Provinces

The Indian casinos in Canada can be found on First Nations’ land and on reservations. All of them are operating according to the laws and rules that are in motion in the featured province.

Although the Indian casinos in Canada aren’t as widespread as the mainstream Canadian casino, there are still some incredible options to choose from.

Most of the Indian casinos that are located in the Canadian provinces have a commercial agreement with the state, which obliged them to share their generated revenues with the First Nation communities.

Currently, 26 fully licensed and regulated Indian casinos in Canada offer all kinds of casino games. Below we will reveal the featured Native Casinos that are operating in each of the provinces in Canada.

Native Indian Casinos in Ontario

In Ontario, every player that is at least 19 years of age can explore and enjoy some of the best casino games that the Indian Casinos offer in the province. At the moment, there are only three Indian casinos that are working in Ontario, such as:

  • Golden Eagle Charitable Bingo Hall – Address 49 Devil’s Gap Rd, Kenora, ON P9N 3X8, Canada.
  • Open every day at 6 PM except Monday when it is closed.
  • Phone: +1 807-548-1332
  • Great Blue Heron Casino– address: 21777 Island Rd, Port Perry, Ontario L9L 1B6, Canada. They are open 24/7, Phone Number: (905)-985-4888

Great Blue Heron Casino Ontario Native Casinos

 

  • Casino Rama Resort – 5899 Rama Rd, Rama, ON, L3V 6H6, Canada. They are open 24/7 – email: inquiries@casinorama.com, Phone: 1-800-832-7529

Casino Rama Resort Ontario outdoor view

Every single one of these Indian casinos in Ontario is licensed and regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. These Indian casinos offer all kinds of slot machines, table games, bingo, and keno games, as well as state-of-the-art accommodations and restaurants.

Indian Casinos in British Columbia

Players that are also above 19 can visit and wager at the Indian casinos in British Columbia, which feature four land-based casinos. Here’s the full list of the available Indian casinos in British Columbia:

  • Chances Cowichan
  • Casino of the Rockies
  • Chances Squamish
  • Chances Salmon Arm

Some of these land-based casinos are part of large resorts, but that doesn’t mean they lack casino quality, as the entertainment is guaranteed. The Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB) regulates all gambling activities in British Columbia.

Indian Casinos in Manitoba

In Manitoba, the Indian land-based casinos are owned and operated by the Crown corporation Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries. The featured Indian casinos that are available in this province are the following:

  • Aseneskak Casino
  • The Niichi Gaming & Leisure Centre
  • The Sand Hills Casino
  • The South Beach Casino & Resort
  • Swan Lake First Nation Gaming Centre 

Every single one of the Indian casinos we mentioned above offers different casino games and extras that will keep visitors entertained. It is worth noting that these Indian casinos are being regulated by The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba (LGCA).

Also, the players that want to enjoy the Indian casino games in Manitoba must be at least 18 years old in order to enter these establishments.

Indian Casinos in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan was the first province in Canada to be allowed to establish and regulate its own Indian land-based casinos. Every player that wants to wager at the featured Indian casinos in Saskatchewan must be 19 years or older. There are currently seven Indian casinos in the Saskatchewan area such as:

  • Bear Claw Casino
  • Gold Eagle Casino
  • Dakota Dunes Casino
  • Gold Horse Casino
  • Painted Hand Casino
  • Living Sky Casino
  • Northern Lights Casino

All of these Indian Casinos are licensed and regulated by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, which is a well-respected regulator that works according to the First Nations Gaming Act. Each of the Indian casinos is unique in its own way, offering an unforgettable gaming experience.

Indian Casinos in Alberta

Last but not least, players from Canada, as well as tourists that are into casino gambling, can enjoy the gaming services from six remarkable Indian land-based casinos in Alberta. Here’s the full list of Indian casinos that are located in Alberta:

  • Bear Hills Casino and Travel Resort
  • Eagle River Casino & Travel Plaza
  • Casino Dene
  • Stoney Nakoda Casino
  • Grey Eagle Casino
  • River Cree Resort and Casino

In Alberta, the players must be at least 18 years of age in order to try out their luck at the casino games provided by the Indian casinos in this province. All of the Indian land-based casinos in Alberta are being licensed and regulated by The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC).

What Are the Effects of Online Casinos on Indian Casinos

Online gambling has become a massive trend in the world, including in Canada, as it offers many benefits to players. However, Canada’s shifting of the gambling industry from land-based to online casinos has seriously impacted Indian casinos. In the following years, they will be even more devastating.

With the new gambling options that online casinos provide, many players have switched from traditional casino gambling to more convenient online gambling, and many others will follow this never-ending trend.

Currently, reputable Indian casinos in Canada aren’t suffering major losses, but with the increased popularity of online gambling, things will become much worse.

Real Money online casinos are offering players a chance to enjoy a gaming session from the comfort of their homes without the need to drive several kilometres for casino entertainment. They are also offering a wide variety of casino games, from the best table games to all kinds of themed online slots.

Live casino games are also a serious threat to traditional casinos, as they provide nearly the same gaming experience as the table games found at the brick and mortar casinos.

Last but not least, the rise of mobile gaming in Canada is something that will additionally hit Indian casinos, as it provides them with the opportunity to gamble on all popular casino games from their mobile device.

If the First Nations want to keep getting decent revenue from the gambling industry. In that case, they seriously need to consider starting their online gambling sites, which will act as land-based casinos in terms of using the revenue for supporting the Indigenous communities in Canada.

The Future of Indian Casinos in Canada

Indian casinos have become an essential part of the Canadian gambling industry in the past few decades. But, recent developments in the gambling industry can reshape Indian casinos. That raises the question, “What does the future hold for Indian casinos?”

This largely depends on the establishment of Indian casino sites and whether the Ontario online casinos will lead the other Canadian provinces that feature Indigenous people to alternate their gambling laws.

The First Nations tribes have raised their concerns about their gambling rights following the announcement of the Ontario iGaming launch. Six Nations of the Grand River and the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake have joined forces in the hope of protecting their rights.

If they succeed in strengthening their jurisdiction within the gambling industry in Canada, they could maintain a more collaborative future for the indigenous communities.

The Kahnawake Gaming Commission

The year 1996 in Canada was also marked by the establishment of the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC). Three years later, section 35 of the Constitution Act of Canada was included to cover the regulations that concern interactive gaming.

Both land-based casinos and interactive gaming sites that are hosted in the Kahnawake Mohawk area are licensed and regulated by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. This regulatory body is offering interested clients four types of gaming licenses:

  • Client Provider Authorization: allows the client to offer gaming services from a co-location facility that is operated by a holder of an Interactive Gaming License
  • Interactive Gaming Licenses: allows a featured company to offer online gambling services to authorized client providers that are based in the same location
  • Key Person Permit: obtained by a person that is employed or contracted by the holder of an Authorized Client Provider or Interactive Gaming License to offer operational or managerial functions.
  • Inter-Jurisdictional Authorization: allows the conduct of interactive gaming services from a co-location facility that is being operated by a holder of an Interactive Gaming License.

They were given the authority to cover the gambling activities of any clients operating in the Kahnawake Mohawk territory, ensuring they were following the gaming principles. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission is responsible for the following:

  • Regulating and controlling interactive gaming located in or offered within the Mohawk area of Kahnawake, according to the federal law
  • Preventing interactive gaming from being associated with any crime
  • Ensuring that interactive gaming is fair, honest, and responsible
  • Protecting people that are under the age of 18 years and other vulnerable people from the risks that may come from gaming
  • Ensuring that the operators are treating the players fairly, pay the winners promptly and that all the information that is related to the players’ accounts is kept safe and in the strictest confidence

According to Canadian law, only the provincial governments can offer online gambling services to their residents. But, the Kahnawake tribe and the other First Nations tribes insist that they also have the right to conduct and regulate online gaming sites.

They also state that the online casinos they regulate should be made accessible to people from around the world, wherever online gambling is considered legal.

Over the past decade, the Quebec government has decided to look the other way, which has given the Kahnawake jurisdiction to grow even further and become one of the biggest grey-market gaming regulators in the world.

The reason behind its major popularity in the iGaming industry is the fact that the Kahnawake Gaming Commission is offering one of the most attractive licensing packages on the market. This package starts from 0% tax rates to unparalleled human resources and infrastructures.

It also includes multi-layered security systems and bandwidth, which are some of the most important features of online gambling platforms. Because of these features, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission is enjoying a massive reputation that has been established with hard work.

They employ numerous agencies to ensure that the companies holding valid licenses follow the codes of conduct.

The fact that the Mohawk Internet Technologies must host all licensed gambling sites gives the Kahnawake Gaming Commission absolute power to shut down any company or website that isn’t following the thought rules set by the commission.

Final Thoughts

For many years the Indigenous people in Canada weren’t allowed to establish and operate their own gambling houses. However, the fact that gambling has been a part of the Indigenous culture, as they’ve been practicing gambling for thousands of years, it was inevitable for the Canadian government to give them the right to operate land-based gambling facilities.

Today, these Indian land-based casinos have a commercial agreement with the federal government, where they are obligated to share the revenues gathered from the casinos with the First Nation communities. This allows the Indigenous communities to use the funds from these gambling establishments to finance their communities.

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