Canadian Tribal Casinos and Online Gambling Regulation

Ziv Chen

Updated by

Ziv Chen


Last Updated on 14th March 2024, 07:22 AM

Canadian Tribal Casinos and Online Gambling Regulation

Canadian tribal casinos have played a significant part in the country’s gambling history, and they are an essential part of the Canadian gambling market. Launching in the mid-1990s, the First Nations gaming industry boasts 18 land-based casinos in Canada in multiple provinces. They remain one of the most popular forms of gambling in the country despite the presence of hundreds of commercial casinos that share the market with them.

However, the introduction of new online gambling regulations in Ontario may forever alter tribal gambling venues across the province. The provincial government argues they are making an unregulated industry safe, while the First Nations worry it may destroy their already fragile tribal gambling economy. Here, we look at what the Canadian gambling industry might look for after the new online gambling regulations come into play.

History of Canadian Tribal Casinos

The Canadian government has allowed tribal gambling on reservation land to be controlled by the First Nations since 1985. Within these reserves, wagering practices were down to the discretion of the tribes and could happen despite Canada’s strict approach to gambling. However, it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that Canadian tribal casinos and gaming clubs could open their doors.

Indeed, 1995 became a turning point for tribal gambling. This year marked the creation of the First Nations Gaming Act by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA). The Gaming Act, which was passed into law the following year, allowed tribes to regulate gambling establishments. Consequently, this saw the rise of Canadian casino properties on Saskatchewan tribal land. The year 1996 also marked the establishment of the second tribal gambling authority, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC). This body rewards licences to tribal gambling operators within this region.

Over the past 25+ years, many more tribal gambling venues have opened their doors. Today, there are 18 Canadian tribal casinos within the country in total. You can find seven of these casinos in Saskatchewan, along with five Alberta casinos and two in Manitoba. There are also three Ontario casino venues and one in British Columbia.

Each Canadian tribal casino is governed by regulatory bodies in individual provinces. As charitable Canada casinos, the profits from gambling at these premises are put back into public funds and tribal trusts to benefit all provincial First Nations.

Casinos and hotels at the Las Vegas strip

Tribal Casinos in Canada vs the USA

Canada is not the only country with tribal gambling venues; the USA also has several casinos run by American Indian tribes based on the inherent right of tribal sovereignty. In fact, the US tribal gambling industry launched before Canadian tribal casinos in the 1970s, when the Seminole Tribe of Florida opened the first high stakes gambling venue on reservation land.

Many other tribes followed suit, and there are over 450 tribal gambling casinos in the United States today, found in 28 of the 50 US states. These are owned by around 250 of the country’s 566 federally recognized indigenous tribes. Similarly, all US tribal casinos are split into three classes depending on the type of gaming they offer. Class I refers to social gaming, Class II refers to bingo and pull tabs, and Class III refers to more typical casino games, such as slots and blackjack.

Overseeing the entire US industry is the National Indian Gaming Commission. This governing body signed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) into law in 1998, which provides a statutory basis for tribal gambling in the US. It aims to develop revenue for the indigenous tribes while encouraging economic development and protecting against adverse outcomes of the industry.

Similarities and Differences

The legalization of tribal casinos in the US acted as inspiration for tribal Canada gambling legislation to be written. Yet, despite the many similarities between the two, there are many differences between US and Canadian tribal casinos.

These are mainly regarding quantity and quality; tribal gambling venues in Canada are fewer and smaller than in the US. Let’s take a closer look at the comparisons in the table below:


  • Both US and Canadian tribal casinos are located on tribal grounds and help support the native communities.
  • Both provide ample casino job opportunities and a way to keep the community thriving in both Canada and the United States.
  • Many larger establishments are responsible for the primary revenue earned every year.
  • There are tribal casinos in around 50% of all US states and Canadian provinces.


  • There are 18 tribal casinos in Canada compared to over 450 tribal casinos in the USA.
  • The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA) regulates tribal gambling in the United States, while individual provinces have control in Canada.
  • There are much bigger casinos in the United States than in Canada.
  • The US tribal gambling industry has room for more growth thanks to the country’s large landmass and population.

Despite the differences in size, growth potential, and numbers, both US and Canadian tribal casinos have the potential to leave behind a positive legacy for the countries’ indigenous people.

These tribal gambling establishments and laws help form positive relations between the tribes and provincial governments. Moreover, it has been found that provinces with tribal casinos have seen more young adults move back to reservation land, an increase in adult employment, and a decline in poverty.

Canada Online Gambling Regulation

Canadian gambling laws are governed by each of the 10 provinces, with power granted to each territory by the federal government. Therefore, this means different regions can have wildly different rules and regulations regarding legal gambling. Even so, thanks to the unique nature of online gambling regulation in Canada, bettors in the country can still access internationally-regulated online casino sites and sportsbooks.

However, the Canadian casino and iGaming industry is set to change in Ontario. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and iGaming Ontario announced the launch of regulated online gambling in the province on April 4th, 2022. As of this date, Ontario casino sites licensed by the government can start taking wagers from players. Ontario bettors have the security of playing at a fully legal and licensed site rather than playing at risky, unregulated alternatives.

As the first Canadian province to regulate a private iGaming industry, the other Canadian territories eagerly await to see how it unfolds. If anything like the US, though, the launch of Ontario casino sites could trigger other Canadian provinces to rethink their gambling legislation. Besides, as the largest Canadian province, the launch of legal online casinos is set to have a big impact on the Canadian gambling industry as a whole.

Slot machines at a land-based casino

What Effect Does Online Gambling Regulation Have on Tribal Casinos?

The shifting Canadian gambling industry will undoubtedly impact Canadian tribal casinos. With new and legal gambling options available, many bettors may shift to online betting. As such, land-based venues will be hit. The tribal Ontario casino properties, including Rama Resort, Golden Eagle Charitable Casino, and Great Blue Heron Charity Casino, are direct competitors. Therefore, these venues may see a drop in revenue.

With that being said, there is no definitive proof that online Ontario casino sites will impact these land-based alternatives. Supporters of Ontario’s legislation state that Canadians can play at online casinos already, and so creating a legal market simply protects these players who are already not visiting Canadian tribal casinos. They argue that the launch creates a safe space rather than a completely different one.

However, when looking at the US iGaming market and bettors’ preferences for mobile betting, the slightly unfavourable outcome for tribal gambling establishments seems to be expected. Still, the true impact of a legal online casino industry is yet to be seen. Canadian tribal casinos and Ontario casino sites could live in harmony, with online casinos potentially fuelling a new interest in the Canadian gambling market and increasing tribal gambling.

The Future of Tribal Casinos in Canada

Canadian tribal casinos have become an essential part of the Canadian casino landscape. But what does the future look like for tribal gambling? Well, this largely depends on whether the launch of Ontario casino sites will lead to other Canadian provinces altering their gambling laws. If so, this could lead to an uncertain future for tribal gambling.

Following the announcement of the Ontario iGaming launch, First Nations Tribes are concerned about their gambling rights. The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake and the Six Nations of the Grand River have partnered in the hope of protecting these rights. Many more tribes may join together to help strengthen their jurisdiction within the Canadian gambling industry and beyond. Ultimately, this could mean the future is more collaborative for the indigenous tribes.

Casino sign at White Bear Indian Reserve in Saskatchewan

Top Canadian Tribal Casinos

Although outnumbered by their commercial counterparts, Canadian tribal casinos are an excellent option for anyone wanting to play casino games in person. These casinos are available in five of the ten Canadian provinces, so there’s bound to be one nearby. Below, you can find some of the best tribal gambling establishments in the country. So, why not head to one today and try your luck?

1. Casino Rama in Ontario

Casino Rama is the largest Canadian tribal casino, besides being the only First Nations commercial casino in Ontario. It was also one of the first tribal gambling venues to launch following the passing of the Gaming Act, opening its doors in 1996. The property underwent a million-dollar renovation in 2013 and today consists of a 289-room hotel, 10 restaurants, and a 192,000 square foot casino. Overall, the Canada casino has 2,500 slot machines and 110 table games.

2. Gold Horse Casino in Saskatchewan

Most Canadian tribal casinos in Saskatchewan launched in 1996, but the Gold Horse Casino is the sole exception. This Canadian gambling venue opened to the public in December 2018. The 49,000 square foot casino has more than 250 slot machines, five live table games, and 18 electronic table games. The Gold Horse Casino is the seventh SIGA-owned casino in the province and the first in Lloydminster, Canada’s only border town.

3. South Beach Casino in Manitoba

South Beach Casino is one of the three Canadian tribal casinos within the Manitoba province. Opening its doors in 2005, the Canada casino is owned by the Southeast Resource Development Council and the seven First Nations that fall within this umbrella. Its games floor encompasses 40,000 square feet of space and is home to over 600 slot machines and gambling tables.

4. Great Blue Heron Casino in Ontario

Located on Scugog Island northeast of Toronto, the Great Blue Heron Casino is owned by the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation. This Ontario casino first opened in 1997, but the gambling venue has undergone several renovations since then. Today, it consists of a 35,000 square foot gaming floor with around 545 slots and 60 table games. A hotel was also added onto the premises in November 2021 for anyone wanting an overnight stay.

Top Canadian Online Casinos

While land-based tribal gambling venues are one option for Canadian bettors, online gambling is a great alternative. It can be enjoyed by anyone of legal age living within Canada and accessed from anywhere in the country. Keep in mind that the minimum legal gambling age is 18 in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, and 19 in all other provinces.

Ontario casino sites, launching April 4th, 2022, are licensed and regulated by the AGCO and iGaming Ontario (iGO). However, people residing in other provinces can still enjoy all the perks of internationally-regulated online casinos.

Most of these online casinos regulated in other jurisdictions, including those highlighted on this page, are a great source of entertainment. Nevertheless, other sites may not be as trustworthy as they first appear. Without regulation from the Canadian government, you need to ensure you’re playing at safe sites before investing your hard-earned cash. That’s where we come in – we’ve highlighted all the best Canadian gambling sites that are reputable and regulated in other jurisdictions.

If you want to enjoy all the perks of online gambling while staying safe online, we urge you to only play at our recommended sites. Plus, we’ve sought out the best bonuses and most exciting games available anywhere. In fact, our review team leaves no stone unturned when comparing Canadian casino sites. From exceptional customer support to secure banking methods and speedy payouts, you’re guaranteed the best. Sign up today and take the thrills of casinos with you wherever you go!


It is an exciting time for Canadians as Ontario casino sites are set to open on April 4th, 2022. However, how this will impact Canadian tribal casinos is yet to be seen. The country’s 18 tribal gambling venues are already in fierce competition with government-operated casinos. The new Canadian casino laws regarding iGaming could make the survival of tribal locations slightly more challenging.

With that being said, how the Canadian gambling market will look in 2022 and beyond is yet to be seen. For now, Canadians can enjoy tribal gambling at any land-based venue and online casino gaming at one of our recommended sites. Sign up and claim your welcome bonus today to get started.

Meet The Author

25 Years
Ziv Chen
Ziv Chen
Writer Writer

Ziv Chen has been working in the online gambling industry for over two decades in senior marketing and business development roles. Ziv writes about a wide range of topics including slot and table games, casino and sportsbook reviews, American sports news, betting odds and game predictions. Leading a life full of conflict, Ziv constantly struggles between his two greatest loves: American football and US soccer.

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