The ban on gambling in Canada goes back to 1892, when the country itself was barely 20 years old. After that the only wagers that could legally be placed on Canadian soil were at horse races. That began to change in the 1970s when the government needed to pay for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal and took to running lotteries. In 1985, while leaving the federal ban on gambling in the statues, the Parliament passed laws enabling the individual provinces to decide on the legality of gambling within their borders. Today, loonies can be risked in some 100 casinos across Canada. Only New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland & Labrador continue to not offer casino gambling. Here are some of the most popular Canadian casinos…
Casino de Montréal. This is Canada’s largest gambling palace, sprawling across three connected buildings on the Île Notre-Dame in the Saint Lawrence River. The artificial island was constructed with 15 million tons of rock in 1965 to stage Canada’s Expo 67, a celebration of the nation’s centennial. Two of the casino buildings were used to house exhibits during the fair: the French Pavilion and the Québec Pavilion. The casino is one of four operated by the provincial government and the heritage buildings offer something not often seen in casinos – windows. Another unconventional feature is that alcohol, while flowing freely throughout the property, is not permitted on any of the five gaming floors. The Casino de Montréal boasts more than 3,200 slot machines and over 100 gaming tables but the showcase gambling hall is so busy that high minimum table stakes are in effect during peak hours.
Casino Niagara. This is another publicly owned casino, operated by Ontario Lottery and Gaming. As its name and logo suggest, Casino Niagara benefits from a prime location. Overlooking the landmark Horseshoe and American Falls, the casino rose in 1996 on the foundations of the Maple Leaf Village amusement park. There is no hotel on the property so the casino caters to tourists wandering in from the attractions surrounding Niagara Falls. It offers 1,500 slot machines, 40 table games and a poker room.
Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort. This is a newer Niagara Falls property, opened in 2004 in what was once the transformer station building for the Ontario Power Company. Where the giant transformers once churned out electricity, conventioneers now gather in the Grand Hall. The soaring towers also house a hotel with 374 rooms. The entire complex encompasses 2.5 million square feet, with enough given over to gambling that there are over 3,000 slot machines and 100 table games. In a nod to Niagara Falls’ one-time reputation as the “Honeymoon Capital of the World,” Niagara Fallsview also offers a wedding chapel.
Caesars Windsor. Another casino perched on the United States border is the Caesars Windsor in Windsor, Ontario, hard by the entrance to the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. The folks affiliated with Caesars World in Las Vegas opened Ontario’s first casino in 1994. There was such a pent-up hunger for gambling action in the area that lines would wrap around the temporary building with punters waiting to get in the door. A 27-story “Augustus” tower was added to the original 23-story hotel-casino in 2008.The success of Caesars Windsor kickstarted casino gambling across the river in Detroit, which now has three casinos of its own. The resort is still a slice of Las Vegas luxury with top-end restaurants, the Colosseum showroom that attracts headline acts, several spas and slot machines that take your drink order.
River Rock Casino. Conveniently situated five minutes from the Vancouver International Airport, the River Rock Casino, erected on the one-time Bridgepoint Market in the city of Richmond, is the largest West Coast casino in Canada. This is the flagship property of Great Canadian Gaming that operates ten gambling houses. The facilities at River Rock include a 396-room hotel and a marina with berths for 144 watercraft. River Rock has gained a reputation for its high-limit VIP room and its hosting of big-time tournaments in the poker room.
Casino Nova Scotia. On the Atlantic Coast, the place to spend loonies is the Casino Nova Scotia with locations in Sydney and at the downtown Halifax waterfront. The Halifax casino was actually constructed over water 70 feet deep, resting on caissons like a wharf. The mid-size Halifax casino offers 650 slot machines and table games with another 300 available in the Sydney location on historic George Street.
Northlands Park. Canada’s leading racino is located on the outskirts of Edmonton. Historic Northlands Park opened in 1900 and has hosted the Canadian Derby, the biggest event in Western Canadian racing, since the 1950s. Standardbreds also run here during November and December. In addition to live and simulcast racing in the Racebook, over 550 slot machines and electronic tables games have been added at the track. There are no table games, however.
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