Until 1985, gambling in Ontario consisted of parimutuel wagering on horse races and games of chance at a summer fair like Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition.
In 1985, the Canadian Federal Government decided that provincial governments had the exclusive right to provide gambling inside their provincial borders.
The Canadian Criminal Code was amended to reflect this and provinces interested in gambling set up regulatory bodies to oversee gambling operations.
In Ontario, this meant the establishment of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). It is now responsible for regulating gaming activities in the province. The AGCO also provides oversight to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) which started out overseeing lottery operations in the province, and now owns and manages all gambling operations as well.
- Commercial and Aboriginal casinos
- Racetrack slots facilities
- Sports Betting
- Temporary and permanent charitable gaming operations
- Internet gaming
It is estimated the OLG turns over $1.8 billion in gambling profits from these operations to the Ontario government annually.
The OLG has also committed to a gambling expansion and modernization plan that is expected to include an expansion of gambling operations at Woodbine Racetrack in the Greater Toronto Area and several other properties.
The OLG owns and manages 25 casino and racetrack slots facilities across Ontario. The majority of the facilities are run by private casino operators, often through full partnerships with the OLG.
The OLG has three types of casino and slots facilities. This includes resort casinos, OLG casinos, and OLG slots at horse racing tracks.
The OLG’s resort casinos in Windsor, Niagara Falls and Barrie are larger gambling facilities with more gaming options, higher limits, and amenities including hotels, entertainment venues and meeting and convention space.
OLG casinos are smaller operations offering gambling, food and beverage services, and entertainment. OLG slots at horse racing tracks offer slot machines, food and beverage services, and entertainment including live and simulcast horse racing with parimutuel wagering.
Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls is the province’s largest resort casino property. It features more than 200,000 square feet of gaming space with over 3,000 slots and 40 table games.
The full list of casino properties in the province includes:
- Casino Brantford
- Ajax Downs
- Flamboro Downs
- Georgian Downs
- Grand River Raceway
- Mohawk Racetrack
- Woodbine Racetrack
- Casino Niagara
- Casino Rama
- Fallsview Casino
- Caesars Windsor
- Great Blue Heron
- Gateway Clinton
- Gateway Dresden
- Gateway London
- Gateway Point Edward
- Sault Ste. Marie Gateway
- Gateway Sudbury
- Gateway Thunder Bay
- Woodstock Gateway
- Shoreline Thousand Islands
- Kawartha Downs Shoreline
- Shoreline Bellville
- Rideau Carleton Raceway Casino (Hard Rock Ottawa)
Patrons must be 19 years of age or older to enter a casino or slots site in Ontario. This is the same minimum age as required for purchasing and consuming alcohol in the province.
Lottery games in the province are conducted by the OLG and regulated by the AGCO. Players must be 18 years of age or older to purchase lottery tickets in Ontario.
The AGCO has a number of responsibilities in terms of lottery games. These include:
- Registering lottery retailers and employees
- Establishing standards and requirements for the conduct and management of lottery operations
- Testing and approving lottery equipment
- Inspecting lottery retailers
- Investigating insider wins, suspicious wins and complaints of criminal activity against retailers
The provincial lottery is one of the province’s oldest forms of gambling. Its Wintario draw lottery product first launched in 1975. It was discontinued in 1996.
Current OLG draw lottery games include:
- Lotto Max
- Lotto 6/49
- Daily Grand
- Ontario 49
OLG watch ‘n win lottery games include:
- Poker Lotto
- NHL Lotto
- Wheel f Fortune Lotto
- Megadice Lotto
OLG daily lottery games include:
- Daily Keno
OLG instant lottery games include:
- The Big Spin
- Mega Cash
- X Money
- Cash For Life
- Instant Crossword
The OLG also sanctions a form of sports betting available through lottery retailers. This essentially parlay betting. The OLG’s Pro Line is played by selecting the outcome of three to six sporting events based on a list of events and odds. NHL Hockey, NFL, CFL and NCAA football, MLB baseball, NBA and NCAA basketball, MLS soccer and European football games are all available for Pro Line parlay wagering.
Players can also bet on Pools and Point Spreads.
Temporary and permanent charitable gaming operations
The AGCO oversees licensed lottery events including bingo, raffles and break open ticket sales conducted by eligible charitable and religious organizations.
Additionally, the OLG works with a number of charitable organizations to offer electronic games in bingo halls.
There is only one online casino regulated by the province and the AGCO. It is the OLG’s internet gambling site PlayOLG. The site feature casino-style electronic table games, slots, video poker and OLG lottery ticket sales online.
The site launched in 2015 with the province claiming it wanted to keep an estimated $500 million a year Ontario residents gambled away on grey market online sites not regulated in the province at home.
The OLG also launched a companion mobile app in 2016 featuring online casino gaming.
There are a number of offshore online casino and online poker operations that accept customers from inside the province of Ontario. Canadian law makes it fairly clear it is against the law for any entity other than the province or its approved partners to run a gambling establishment on Canadian soil, whether it is an online gambling site or brick and mortar casino operation. However, there is no law in place making it illegal for Canadians to gamble.
Therefore, online casino and online poker operations situated outside of Canada are able to operate in what amounts to a legal gray area. Plus, Canadians can feel free to gamble on these sites since no citizen has ever been prosecuted for gambling on one.
Additionally, the rise of internet gambling happened before the Canadian Federal Government or Federal law enforcement authorities could react. Now firmly entrenched, it appears to be an industry both the government and law enforcement have no intention of dealing with one way or the other.