Gambling in Saskatchewan was limited to the Western Canadian lottery and parimutuel wagering on horse races before a major gambling expansion in the 1990s.
In 1985, the Canadian Government decided that provincial governments should have the exclusive right to provide gambling inside provincial borders. The Canadian Criminal Code changed and provinces interested in gambling set up regulatory bodies to oversee provincial gambling operations.
White Bear First Nation Chief Bernie Shepherd set up a makeshift casino with slot machines on the Nation’s Carlyle-area reserve in the early 1990s. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided the operation and seized the machines. However, negotiations between White Bear First Nation and other First Nations groups ultimately led to the province of Saskatchewan getting in the gambling game.
The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority formed in 1995 to run casino operations on First Nations land. Eventually it oversaw six casinos open up across the province, all of which it still operates today. It also has plans in the works to open a seventh in Lloydminster in the near future.
The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority was brought in to provide oversight for the The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority. It now runs the slots at First Nations casinos and the province’s Video Lottery Terminal program.
In 1996, a Crown corporation owned by the Government of Saskatchewan established the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation to set up and operate Casino Regina. In 2002, the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation opened up a second government-run casino in Moose Jaw. The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority also regulates its operations.
Charitable gambling in the province is also licensed by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority. The Saskatchewan Lottery operates as a part of the Western Canadian Lottery.
There are currently eight casino properties operating in communities across Saskatchewan. These include six operated by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority:
- Gold Eagle opened in February 1996 in North Battleford
- Northern Lights opened in March 1996 in Prince Albert
- Bear Claw opened in November 1996 on the White Bear First Nation
- Painted Hand opened in December 1996 in Yorkton
- Dakota Dunes opened in August 2007 on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation
- Living Sky opened in December 2008 in Swift Current
The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority is currently developing its seventh in Lloydminster.
The Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation operates two other government-run casinos:
- Casino Regina, opened in January 1996
- Casino Moose Jaw, opened in September 2002
With over 1,000 slots and 30 table games, Casino Regina is the largest in the province. The largest First Nations casino is the Dakota Dunes Casino, with over 600 slots and 18 table games.
Saskatchewan Video Lottery Terminals
Saskatchewan allows for the operation of Video Lottery Terminals in approved and age-restricted, liquor-permitted establishments. The program is administered by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, who partnered with Western Canada Lottery Corporation to run it. The maximum number of of Video Lottery Terminals allowed across the province is 4,000.
Additionally, licensed establishments need minimum seating capacity of 30 to host Video Lottery Terminals.
Video Lottery Terminals in Saskatchewan pay out 92.5 percent of money wagered. The terminals are carefully controlled, regulated, and tested to ensure compliance.
More than 40 games are available, including reel, keno, and poker.
Saskatchewan Lotteries has been the provincial marketing organization for Western Canada Lottery products in Saskatchewan since 1974. Sask Sport Inc. a non-profit organization, runs the group. Through an agreement with the Government of Saskatchewan, proceeds from Saskatchewan Lotteries help support sport, culture, and recreation organizations throughout the province.
Lottery products include:
- LOTTO MAX
- LOTTO 6/49
- DAILY GRAND
- SCRATCH ‘N WIN
- SPORT SELECT
Saskatchewan Lotteries and Western Canada Lottery also offer a form of sports betting available through lottery retailers. This entails parlay betting on major sports events. The name of this product is Sports Select. Players select the outcome of two to six sporting events based on a list of events and odds.
Various other forms of sports betting are now available through the lottery as well.
The saga of online gaming in the province of Saskatchewan is also an interesting tale. One that surrounds former White Bear First Nation Chief Bernie Shepherd.
The province first started discussing the possibilities of setting up its own online gambling website in 2010.
Suddenly, in 2012, Shepherd said he was ready to launch Saskatchewan’s first online casino from First Nations land. This despite not having permission from any level of government.
The provincial government then stepped in and said online gambling sites would not be allowed in Saskatchewan. In fact, Donna Harpauer, the minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, said the group would consider any online gambling operation run out of the province illegal.
Shephard went ahead regardless. However, by 2014, Shepherd’s GEObet Gambling Network and the Northern Bear Casino online casino shut down without ever creating any revenue or jobs.
Offshore online gambling operators
There are a number of offshore online casino and online poker operations that accept customers from inside Saskatchewan. It is against Canadian law for any entity other than a province or its approved partners to run a gambling establishment on Canadian soil. However, there is no law against Canadians gambling online.
Therefore, online casino and online poker operations situated outside of Canada can operate inside this legal gray area. Canadians gamble on the sites, knowing no Canadian has ever been charged with a crime for gambling on an offshore online casino. Plus, the sites continue to accept them, knowing Canadian authorities are turning a blind eye to it.