Item consists of a photograph showing cowboys engaged in trick horse-riding. The race was "won by youngest cow boy of Canada, Alvin Welch."

In recent years, Ontario has made a name for itself for its progressive online gambling regulations; however, the history of gambling in the province dates back more than a hundred years. This history has gradually shaped Ontario’s gambling industry as we know it today, and this article follows the journey from its early days up to the present and considers what the future may hold for the province.

1910: The First Legal Forms of Gambling

In Ontario and the rest of Canada, horse race betting constituted the first and only legal form of gambling, except for certain situations in which permits could occasionally be obtained (such as charity events or agricultural fairs).

It’s difficult to determine when horse race betting first began, but it is clear that it occurred in Canada long before it became a sovereign nation. In 1910, a federal amendment to the Criminal Code legalised horse race betting.

When it came to racing, each province became responsible for regulating and shaping its horse racing industry. In Ontario, the governing body was the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC), formed in 1950, although horse racing and courses predated this establishment.

1970: The Federal Government Updates the Criminal Code

In 1970, the Government of Canada updated the federal Criminal Code again, allowing each province to regulate and license gambling at its own discretion. This led to milestones such as opening the country’s first casino in Winnipeg in 1989 and implementing provincial lotteries.

1975: The Legalisation of the Ontario Lotteries

In 1975, Ontario’s first lottery was launched by the Ontario Lottery Corporation. Today, it’s known as the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). The OLG raises funds for the province through its lotteries, with all profits supporting the Government of Ontario initiatives. In its first few months in operation, from February to August 1975, the organization contributed $6 million to the province.

To date, the OLG has provided $2.5 billion to the Government of Ontario. The OLG also partners with private and non-profit organisations to raise money for charities and communities and has donated $80 million through charitable gaming initiatives.

1994: The Legalisation of Casinos

While other provinces like Manitoba and Quebec were the first to license and regulate casinos in Canada, Ontario wasn’t far behind. The first Ontario casino opened in May 1994 in Windsor. It quickly became a popular attraction despite being set up at a temporary location. Today, the casino is still in operation, and more than 20 other casinos have since opened across the province, offering a range of casino games to their patrons.

When casinos were first introduced to the province, the Gaming Control Commission regulated them, but in 1998, the commission’s responsibilities were taken over by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

2022: The Legalisation of Single-Game Sports Betting

Another federal update saw a change in acceptable forms of gambling, giving provinces another form they could license and regulate: single-game sports betting. This legislative change mirrored a similar development in the US, which legalised sports betting in 2018. In April 2022, Ontario offered its residents the first regulated market for sports betting in Canada.

2022: The Legalisation of Online Gaming

2022 was a significant year for Canada’s gambling industry. As Ontario opened its sports betting market, it also opened its regulated online gaming market, iGaming Ontario, which comprises sports betting, casinos, and lottery games. It was the first province in Canada to do this, and it reaped the rewards, generating over $1.4 billion for the province’s government in its first year of operation.

Today, the popularity of online casinos is immense, and it’s not uncommon to come across a post about the best online casino options for the province or to see ads promoting casinos across the web.

The Future of Gambling in Ontario

Ontario has become a national leader in its approach to online gambling options. Other provinces turn to it as a guidepost for the steps they’ll take for their regulations. But, even as a leader, it’s not perfect. The online gaming industry still has some kinks to work out and loud concerns from the public to address.

Ontario’s online gaming market is highly profitable. This past fiscal year, 2023-2024, the province generated $18 billion in wagers, but concerns have grown around problem gambling and the advertisements for the industry.

Ontario will likely follow the lead of other countries in developing stricter ad regulations for gambling sites. Some measures have already been put in place, with an update in regulations that came into effect in February 2024 prohibiting celebrities and athletes from appearing in ads. But that wasn’t the only concern regarding ads, meaning the province still has some work to do.

When it comes to problem gambling, the province has had regulations in place since the iGaming market went live, but some people still hope for stricter regulations and policies to protect gamblers.

The changing technological landscape adds to the projections of the Ontario gambling industry’s future. Tech developments are rapidly increasing, with the potential for both harm and help to gamblers. If these developments aren’t addressed appropriately with policies and regulations, the potential for harm may exceed the benefits.


From horse race betting to iGaming, gambling in Ontario has had a long history. The gambling industry has generated a significant amount of revenue for the province, and its bold shaping of Canada’s first regulated online market is a huge component of this. Gambling in the province isn’t without its faults, but with careful planning and implementation of policies, its residents will be able to enjoy gambling with minimal risks.




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