According to history, gambling has always been a popular pastime in Canada, long before John Cabot sailed to Canada in 1497. Proof of this has been unearthed and documented by archaeologists and anthropologists when they discovered gaming sticks that the First Nations used in their games of chance. As Europeans gradually entered Canada, they brought their own artefacts like poker, dice and poker games, to name but a few. 

The Canadian Code of 1892 allowed for gambling under certain conditions and remained relatively unchanged until 1970 when the criminal code was amended, giving provinces the authority to license and regulate gambling in their own regions. 

The First Nations Gaming Act

The First Nations Gaming Act was signed into Canadian law in 1995 and gave aboriginal tribes and their communities the legislation needed to allow the establishment of institutions to support the gaming industry. This new legislation allowed for native tribes to gain some economic benefits. The Act allows First Nations to not only offer gambling, but it also allows for the development of trust funds, oversight commissions and different related programs. 

The First Nations are a group of people who identify themselves to the nation or tribe to which they belong. In Canada, aboriginal tribes are the Mohawk, Saskatchewan, Cree, Oneida and other native tribes. 

The Indian gaming industry in the United States is said to be a $29 billion industry, with an estimated 240 American Indian tribes operating more than 450 gaming operations in 28 states. That’s quite a big difference compared to its neighbouring country. In Canada, the First Nations’ gaming industry is made up of fewer than 20 casinos with an estimated gross revenue of around $1 billion. Quite a big difference compared to the USA.

Online Gambling and Indian Reserves

We cannot deny that most of the First Nation Casinos are land-based. This means that you’d literally have to drive right into the heart of these reserves to enjoy your gambling activities. With the world becoming more digital and the rise of Generation Z, we have to admit that this is something that will have to evolve with the times. There are many factors that we have to keep in mind - the rise of social media and the fact that Generation Z is born into a digital world. 

As a result, online gambling websites in Canada are becoming more popular. The online gambling world offers many perks, like playing whenever and from wherever you want. All you need is a stable internet connection. Besides online sports betting, one can even play slot machines and table games online these days. To accomodate, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission provides online gambling licenses to online casinos aimed at players that may be physically located in other regions.

Gambling Laws in Canada

Canada used to be very strict when it came to gambling but over the years, but changes to the legislation in the 1970's, led to the drastic relaxation of these laws

The reformed Criminal Code gave the power and authority to license and regulate to each province and region. This ultimately led to several provincial governments starting their own lotteries and the development of sports betting outlets.

Online Gambling Laws

When it comes to online gambling laws, things get a bit more complex. Provinces are allowed to operate their own online casinos and people are allowed to place bets over the internet. It is also legal for Canadians to buy lottery tickets on the internet. 

It is, however, illegal to provide online gambling services of any kind to Canadian citizens unless licensed and approved by the government. This law seems quite clear. However, the law gets murky for Canadians who place online bets with companies that are based and operating overseas. 

You can read more on this topic of laws in Canada.

The Proposed New Sports Betting Bill

Recently in Toronto, Conservative MP Kevin Waugh from Saskatchewan introduced the new “Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act” (Bill C-218) into Canada’s House of Commons. 

The purpose of this bill is to follow America’s lead by making single-game sports betting legal. 

Introducing the bill, Waugh explained to the House that single-event sports wagering already exists in this country. “And if you don’t think so, you’re behind the curtains,” he said. “The Canadian single-event sports wagering industry is worth over $14bn, but most of it – like 95% of it – exists underground on the black market or through offshore websites.” 

This brings us to the question - If sports betting in Canada becomes the norm, how will this impact their Indian reservations? 

I guess only time will tell if they win this fight and get a slice of this very big pie. Currently, American Indian Reservations are scrambling to figure out how sports betting will impact them under the new Federal law. This situation gets particularly tricky because the law allows for each state to manage itself. We suspect that the Canadian Indian Reserves are watching their American counterparts closely and will likely follow their lead.

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