Gambling in Nova Scotia was limited to parimutuel wagering at horse racing facilities until the mid-1970s. Legal gambling then came to Nova Scotia in 1976 when the province introduced the lottery. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation oversees lottery operations in four Atlantic provinces:
- New Brunswick
- Prince Edward Island
- Nova Scotia
- Newfoundland and Labrador
In 1985, the Canadian Government decided provincial governments had the right to exclusively provide gambling inside provincial borders. The Canadian Criminal Code was amended and provinces that wanted gambling set up regulatory bodies to oversee provincial gambling operations.
History of Nova Scotia legalized gambling
In response to a growing illegal gambling presence in the province, Nova Scotia authorized legal Video Lottery Terminal (VLTs) gaming in 1991. The government limited VLTs to liquor-licensed establishments in the province in 1993.
In 1995 the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and the Nova Scotia Alcohol and Gaming Authority took over the responsibility for gambling operations in the province. Aditionally, the province’s two commercial casino operations in Halifax and Sydney first opened.
This was the same year VLTS were authorized on First Nations land as well.
In 1998, the province passed a law limiting the amount of VLTs legally allowed to operate in the province.
In 2000, the permanent site of the Halifax Casino Nova Scotia opened up. Five years later, in 2005, the Great Canadian Casino Corporation took over ownership of Nova Scotia’s two commercial casinos.
In 2012, Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation became the Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corporation, taking over responsibility for all provincial gambling operations.
The Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco Division of Service Nova Scotia is the regulatory body that administers the provincial Gaming Control Act. It is responsible for licensing and regulating gaming. More specifically, it licenses lottery schemes and regulates gaming activity.
Native gaming operations and horse racing remains under the jurisdiction of Native Gaming Agreements and the Maritime Harness Racing Authority, respectively.
In the meantime, the Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corporation is the crown corporation managing gaming operations. However, the day-to-day operations of gaming operations in the province are handled by its operators. This includes:
- Atlantic Lottery Corporation
- Great Canadian Gaming Corporation
The Atlantic Lottery Corporation runs the lottery ticket and VLT businesses. The Great Canadian Gaming Corporation owns and operates Casino Nova Scotia properties in Halifax and Sydney.
Nova Scotia Lottery
The Atlantic Lottery Corporation runs lottery operations in all four Atlantic provinces in Canada.
The Atlantic Lottery Corporation offers:
- Draw games
- Scratch’N Win tickets
- Video Lottery Terminals
- Pro Line parlay sports betting
- Online bingo and instant win games.
Lottery tickets and games are available at more than 1,000 licensed lottery retailers across Nova Scotia.
Draw games offered by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation include:
- LOTTO MAX
- LOTTO 6/49
- Daily GRAND
- Atlantic 49
- Salsa Bingo
- Keno Atlantic
Scratch’N Win tickets
Atlantic Lottery Scratch ‘N Win games give players the chance to win in an instant. There are dozens of different tickets featuring a variety of sizes and styles. Scratch ‘N Win tickets vary in price from $1 to $30.
Video Lottery Terminals
Video Lottery Terminals feature interactive games of chance with cash prizes. This includes reel games and Keno. They are inside licensed liquor establishments, including restaurants and bars across Atlantic Canada. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation administers and operates all of the VLTs in Atlantic Canada.
There are currently more than 2,100 VLTs operating in Nova Scotia not including those on First Nations lands. These VLTs are in more than 300 licensed establishments
The Atlantic Lottery Corporation’s Pro Line has allowed Atlantic Canadians to bet on sports since 1994. It is essentially parlay betting where players pick the outcome of anywhere from two to eight games. Pro Line also offers fantasy sports, futures, and stadium wagering.
The Atlantic Lottery Corporation offers a variety of internet gambling games. Tickets for draw games are available for purchase online. Pro Line parlay sports betting is available too. Plus, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation offers exclusive online bingo and instant win games.
The Atlantic Lottery Corporation also has a mobile app featuring this same online gambling product line.
Nova Scotia has taken the view that the Canadian Criminal Code makes it illegal to operate or place a bet through an offshore online casino in Canada. It claims the Criminal Code only allows gambling by a province within a province.
Of course, there are still a number of offshore online casino and online poker operations that accept customers from inside the province of Nova Scotia. While Canadian law prohibits companies from operating online gambling sites on Canadian soil, most believe the act of gambling itself is not illegal.
As a result online casino and online poker operations from outside of Canada continue to accept Canadian customers, operating in what amounts to a legal gray area. No Canadian player has ever been charged with a crime for gambling on an offshore casino or poker site.
Plus, the the Canadian Government and law enforcement authorities appear to have little interest in prosecuting the offshore casino and poker operators.
Nova Scotia casinos
Casino Nova Scotia opened as a temporary casino in 1995 inside the Sheraton Hotel Halifax. In 2000 it moved to a $100 million permanent facility on Halifax waterfront. It was owned and operated by Caesars Entertainment until the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation bought them out in 2005. There are more than 650 slots and table games, as well as a live poker room on site.
The Great Canadian Gaming Corporation also operates a Casino Nova Scotia sister site in Sydney. The property features 300 slots and table games and a live poker room.
First Nations VLTs
VLTS were first authorized on First Nations lands in the province in 1995. There are now more than 600 VLTs operation at various First Nations properties throughout the province.