Most Popular Types of Gambling in Canada

By Elaine Heath.

August 8th, 2023



Whether placing a friendly bet among family members or friends on an upcoming sporting event, buying a quick-pick lottery ticket, or wagering big at an online casino, gambling is a pastime that millions of Canadians enjoy.

Although Canada legalized it in 1892, the country had a strained relationship with gambling early on. Shortly after laws were passed to regulate the activity, it was outlawed almost entirely. Thankfully, in 1985, all laws prohibiting it were overturned, and Canadians could enjoy trying their luck once more.

The growth in gaming has been phenomenal.

After this, the floodgates opened, and Canada became home to numerous casinos, including those in tourist centres like Niagara Falls. However, after the launch of online casinos, the country was slow on the uptake—choosing to go into the hype more slowly to ensure that operators were adequately legislated and registered.

As more casinos emerged and online casinos began making their way onto Canadians’ computers and smartphones, the variety of games available exploded—offering more choices than most people would ever need.

Some of these games stand out as fan favourites more than others. In this article, we’ll explore which types of gambling are the most popular amongst the maple leaves and why.

The lottery is easily the most popular form of gambling in Canada—even though it is sometimes not even considered gambling)—with over 65% of eligible Canadians admitting to playing the lottery in a 2019 survey.

Two of the more popular games offered by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming corporation.

This is no surprise, considering Canada is home to some of the best lottery games in the world. Amongst these are the Lotto 6/49, Lotto Max, and Daily Grand. Let’s not forget that residents from the region can also access two of the world’s largest lotteries via online lottery sites—the US Powerball and US Mega Millions.

Because of this great love for the lottery, Canadian lottery sales (excluding Québec) reached almost CA $8.26 billion in 2021. The forerunner in selling lottery tickets was Ontario—with over CA $4.35 billion in sales alone.

Second to lotteries is the famous slot machine. Hailed as one of the most popular forms of gambling, not just in Canada but worldwide, slots hold a special place in Canadian gamblers’ hearts and are one of the main reasons for celebration in casinos.

With the wide variety of slot games available today, it is unsurprising that slots are the most commonly played casino game. However, there are other reasons these games are high on the list.

The chief reason is the RTP (or return to player) rate these games offer. This rate indicates how much money a slot receives is paid back to players.
With physical slots averaging an RTP of between 70% and 74% and online slots offering a much more substantial RTP of between 94% and 98%, these games are known to pay relatively well—even if it is not always jackpot prizes.

Roulette: It is a game of chance.

After slots, roulette is the next casino game where you will most likely find Canadian gamblers hanging out. The game, which relies almost exclusively on luck, is popular worldwide and offers excellent odds, particularly if you play on outer bets—some of which have odds of 50/50.

Three different types of roulette are available in the country: American, French, and European (also known as standard roulette). Not all of these are available in all brick-and-mortar casinos, however. In fact, you are most likely to find only the most popular kind: European roulette.

Thankfully, if you want to try one of the other variations, many online casinos in the region have them readily available.

While many believe poker is the most famous card-based game in casinos, this perception is inaccurate. Blackjack is the preferred game, not just in Canada but also in many other countries. According to estimates, this particular game has over 100 million players internationally.

The thrill of winning while listening to the click of the wheel as it turns and watching where the ball decides to land.

Whether it is the thrill of going up against the banker or the suspense of seeing if you’re about to go bust, blackjack is easily one of Canadians’ most popular casino games. It is heavily featured on almost all online casinos (usually in different variations) and can easily be found in any physical casino available in Ontario and across the country.

Perhaps it is its similarity to blackjack that makes baccarat so immensely popular, or maybe it is the many different variants of the game that make it feel new each time you play. Either way, there is no denying that the gamblers up north love playing it.

The game relies more on luck than actual skill and is easily accessible throughout physical and online casinos in the country. It can also be a great way to destress—but only if you’re confident enough in your understanding of how the game works.

Poker/Video Poker
Eventually, making it to the hearts of gamblers is poker and video versions of the beloved game. While it is not the first choice of most Canadians, the game still has a strong presence in the country and is actively played by many people.

The country is home to some immensely successful professional players, including Daniel Negreanu and Jonathan Duhamel. While most players can’t measure up to players like Daniel—who has won six World Series of Poker bracelets—the game is still widely enjoyed and readily accessible in almost all casinos, whether online or in real life.

Eyeing the competition and reading each of the players while they read you is what real poker players love – it is why the play the game.

It may be hard to think of a time when gambling wasn’t around or legal. However, the fact that the gambling industry has grown so prominently in the relatively short time it has been legal in Canada shows just how popular it is.

While lotteries and slots are at the forefront of this and don’t seem ready to relinquish their hold on bettors any time soon, there are many other games that Canadians love to play. If you haven’t experienced them for yourself, why not head to a casino (or log onto one) and see what all the fuss is about?



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