Ontario Casinos and Gambling
Ontario is a large and multilaterally diverse province in the east-central part of the country. Almost 40% of Canada’s population lives there with most denizens calling the southern portion home. The north and south parts of the province are so different they could seem to be two separate countries geographically, but the laws are homogeneous and people living in two different time zones are bound by the Ontarian commonality of humility and quiet pride that connects the cultural melting pot of metropolitan Toronto to the miner or woodsman living beyond North Bay.
First Nation history is rich and the cultures run deep as do the more recent inhabitants’ ties to the land and waters. The land area of more than 1 million square kilometers (415,000 square miles) is larger than Spain and France combined.
Water covers some 158,654 km2 (61,257 sq mi) or 14.7% of the area and the province touches the five Great Lakes which hold 1/5 of all the planet’s fresh water – Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario.
From Caesars Windsor Casino near the US border and Detroit Michigan to Thunder Bay on Lake Superior to the northwest, or over to the proposed Hard Rock Casino Ottawa, or their current operations at Rideau Carleton Raceway near the border with Quebec – gambling is deeply entrenched in the Ontario culture.
While there are many charitable bingo and gaming outlets, we only find three First Nations casinos in the entire province. The Great Blue Heron Casino is located in the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation. Casino Rama is located in the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, and the Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation is where you’ll find the small Golden Eagle Charitable Casino & Entertainment Centre.
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The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and the Law
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, or more simply OLG, is a Canadian Crown corporation owned by the Government of Ontario. Almost every legal gambling penny has gone through the agency in one form or another since 1975. Since then the OLG has returned some $47 billion to provincial communities.
Online and retail outlet lottery ticket sales, online parlay sports betting, online casino gaming, slot parlors and full-service casinos, and charitable bingo & gaming are all managed by the OLG, as are the slot machines at the province’s 15 horse racing tracks. The corporation is kept in check by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) which is the provincial gaming regulator, and by the Minister of Finance, to whom it reports through its board of directors.
The oversight was previously provided by agencies such as the Gaming Control Commission Ontario through the Gaming Control Act 1992 which came about to control gambling as big casinos began to enter the Windsor and Niagara Falls areas. The agency was replaced by the AGCO with the implementation of the Alcohol and Gaming Regulation and Public Protection Act, Ontario in 1996.
OLG sells lottery tickets online and provides a directory of retail sales outlets. Winnings of $999.90 or less can be redeemed at any retailer with the cash on hand, by mail, at certain slots and casino or at the OLG Prize Centre in Toronto. Some larger prizes can be claimed by mail and select slots and casino, but prizes over $250,000 must be claimed in Toronto.
Online or at-kiosk sports betting is allowed for most contests, but no single event or live betting is allowed. Players must predict the outcome of 3-6 events with bets ranging from $2 to $100. In a nutshell, it is parlay wagering.
The official sanctioned government provider of online casino gaming in the province is PlayOLG. The website offers a hybrid gambling experience with lotteries, slots, poker, table games, and more. You must be at least 19 and a resident of Ontario in order to play there. Many of the popular IGT games you would find in a major casino are available such as Siberian Storm, Texas Tea, Double Diamond, and Cleopatra.
All providers of Canadian lottery controlled online casinos such as IGT in Ontario and NetEnt British Columbia removed their games from the entire open Canadian market. So even though you can’t play NetEnt slots at PlayOLG, you can’t play them at any offshore casinos either. And although residents of B.C. don’t have access to IGT slots at PlayOLG, no offshore casino can supply the games to them. Thankfully there are hundreds of other online developers and providers, licensed in the UK, Malta, and Gibraltar who have not signed onto the monopoly board yet.
Horse Racing in Ontario
Ontario Racing is a non-profit association that has been recognized by the provincial government as the horseracing authority for Ontario since April 1, 2016. The new organization was formed as responsibility for horse racing regulation transferred to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) in late 2015.
The organization provides nearly 1,000 race dates each year through 15 operating tracks. OLG supports horse racing by contributing nearly $100 million a year.
Following is a list of Raceways in Ontario:
- Clinton Raceway, Clinton
- Dresden Raceway, Dresden
- Grand River Raceway, Elora
- Hanover Raceway, Hanover
- Hiawatha Horse Park, Sarnia
- Kawartha Downs, Fraserville
- Mohawk Raceway, Campbellville
- Quinte Exhibition Raceway, Belleville
- Sudbury Downs, Sudbury
Following is a list of racetracks with OLG slots:
- Flamboro Downs, Dundas – 800 slots, electronic tables, live racing, simulcast
- Georgian Downs, Innisfil – 1,000 slots, electronic tables, live racing, simulcast
- Grand River Raceway, Elora – Slots, live racing, simulcast
- Mohawk Racetrack, Campbellville – 1,000 slots and e-tables, live racing, simulcast
- Rideau Carleton Raceway, Ottawa – Opened in 1962 and still open for play as Hard Rock International, who took over operations in the fall of 2017 embarks on a multimillion-dollar expansion. Upon takeover, there were 1,250 slot machines, electronic tables, live racing and simulcasting.
The Casinos of Ontario
OLG is directly involved in one true casino – OLG Casino Brantford, which offers 540 slot machines, 48 gaming table, and 14 poker tables. OLG was formerly heavily involved in the Great Blue Heron [Charity] Casino. The Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation reduced their role in Great Blue Heron in September 2016 when the property transitioned from a charity casino to a commercial enterprise. Previously the MSIFN was in partnership with Casinos Austria running the table games while OLG took care of the slots business. While the Nation still owns the island and the casino property, Great Canadian Gaming Corp acquired the gambling elements in the Greater Toronto Area bundle. Great Canadian operations began Jan 23, 2018.
Following is a list of casinos on First Nations land in Ontario:
- Casino Rama Resort, Orillia – Casino Rama opened on July 31, 1996. Chippewas of Rama First Nation owns the property which has been operated by Penn National Gaming since 2001. It’s a huge resort casino with 2,500 slots, over 100 table games, poker, almost a dozen restaurants, and a hotel with 300 guestrooms and suites, fitness center, and spa. It’s located on the north end of Lake Simcoe 155km from Toronto.
- Golden Eagle Charitable Casino & Entertainment Centre, Kenora – A small bingo and keno center located on the Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation.
- Great Blue Heron Casino, Port Perry – Will be renovated and expanded under Great Canadian control. In early 2018, the 15,000 square foot gaming floor held 545 slot machines, 50 table games, and a poker area.
Following is a list of commercial casinos in Ontario
- Great Blue Heron Casino, Port Perry
- Casino Ajax – Now operated by Great Canadian, part of the GTA bundle. 800 slots, real table games coming, live racing, simulcast
- Casino Woodbine, Toronto – Now operated by Great Canadian, part of the GTA bundle. 3,000 slots, real table games coming, live racing, simulcast
- Western Fair District, London – Still up in the air but likely to be refurbished and expanded by Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Ltd who has proposed a new gaming floor, hotel, etc.
Following is a list of charitable bingo and gaming centers in Ontario:
- Bingo World Newmarket
- Bingo World Richmond Hill
- Delta Boardwalk Gaming Centre Barrie
- Delta Boardwalk Gaming Centre Hawkesbury
- Delta Boardwalk Gaming Centre Pembroke
- Delta Boardwalk Gaming Centre Penetanguishene
- Boardwalk Gaming Centre Sudbury
- Boardwalk Gaming Centre Val Caron
- Breakaway Gaming Centre Windsor
- Cambridge Bingo
- Chances Gaming Lounge Leamington
- Community Spirit Gaming Centre Kingston
- Delta Bingo & Gaming Brampton
- Delta Bingo & Gaming Niagara Falls
- Delta Bingo & Gaming Oakville
- Delta Bingo & Gaming Peterborough
- Delta Bingo & Gaming Pickering
- Delta Bingo & Gaming St.Catharines
- Delta Bingo & Gaming St.Clair
- Dolphin Bingo, Toronto
- Golden Nugget Gaming Centre Fort Erie
- Jackpot City Gaming Entertainment St. Thomas
- Main Street Gaming Centre Welland
- Paradise Gaming Centre Windsor
- Rama Gaming Centre Mississauga
- Riverview Bingo Palace Chatham
- Superior Shores Gaming Association, Thunder Bay
- Timmins Gaming Centre
- Treasure Chest Bingo Kingston
Anywhere you go in the southern part of the province you will find gaming opportunities. Horse racing is alive and well in Ontario and the OLG supports the industry nicely. Lottery retailers are literally everywhere and online gambling is readily available. While most of the charitable gaming centers only hold a few machines, some are really quite nice. The big casinos are all well run and the future holds exciting changes with the GTA bundle going into effect in 2018. Great Canadian has big plans for Woodbine, near the Toronto airport.