Gambling in Ontario: Your expanding options

It is rather mind-boggling to think that only 50 years ago, legal gambling in this province consisted of just two things: very small pots at your local Legion bingo or church raffle; or placing a few bucks on the third race at Woodbine. No big lotteries, no instant scratchers. There was only one legal casino in all of Canada, a Gold Rush artifact up in Dawson City, Yukon. And of course, nobody knew what “on-line” even meant. A mere five decades later, the gambling universe has exploded.

Gambling in Canada is allowed under the Criminal Code, which specifies exactly what types of activities can occur. The federal government then delegates the operation, licensing and regulation of gambling, or ‘gaming’ to the provinces and territories.

In Ontario, the principal regulating body is the Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGC), which in addition to booze and gambling, also has responsibility for the cannabis industry. The AGC only directly oversees one aspect of gambling – horse racing – while delegating the rest of the industry to two subsidiaries: the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and iGaming Ontario (iGO).

Gambling options in the province can be loosely divided into three groups: those you can experience in a social context, those you can enjoy in private (without a ‘device’), and those available virtually.

Gambling in a crowd

Solo Attractions

Virtual Gaming

The psychology of gambling isn’t too hard to figure out. As the ad says, “Someone’s got to win. Why can’t it be you?” And it’s thrilling waiting to see what card the dealer turns over, what number is called by the bingo announcer, what symbol lies under your scratch. It’s also easy to see why that thrill could be addictive.

By the way, remember in the early days of government lotteries, when you got to see the balls drop on national TV? The winning numbers these days are randomly generated by computer software. Of course. Your church raffle is still the best way to see your ticket actually drawn by a human being. Enjoy!

Conrad Boyce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Uxbridge Cosmos