Canada might not have a strip of casinos like Las Vegas or a gambling hub like Macau, but gaming is still a huge part of the economy. There are world-class land-based casinos, and in terms of online gambling, you’d be hard-pressed to find a country that’s more welcoming to it. Those looking to play at sportsbooks have all sorts of options both locally and offshore, and those looking to have some fun at online casinos have a buffet of choices.
In this article, we’re taking a look at just how big of an economic impact the gaming industry made in Canada in 2019. That includes a look at the overall GDP, the province-by-province breakdown and at what role the lotteries play and contribute.
Although it’s not something that’s generally discussed in the open, gambling is a big part of the Canadian culture. We don’t hear of as many gaming shows or talk about casinos as we see in the United States, but Canadians love to have a little action on the line. According to Statistics Canada, the GDP at basic prices saw the gambling industry contribute just over 2.5 billion to the country. The gaming industry outpaced some others in terms of GDP, such as communications equipment manufacturing, industry machine manufacturing, wineries and distilleries.
What’s important to note is that the gambling industry’s GDP continues to rise, although 2020 is going to be an off-year. The gambling industry’s GDP was at 2.063 billion in 2015, 2.157 billion in 2016 and 2.422 billion in 2017. It’s remained flat in 2018 over to 2019, so we might be seeing a saturation point. 2020 will drop, so we’ll have to revisit this in 2021 and 2022 to see which way the trend is going. By most expert estimates, they do expect this segment to grow.
Given the hunger to play, a lot of avenues have been created for customers. That includes online casinos, land-based casinos and other outlets. As a result, the gambling industry now employs over 45,000 people, which is massive. It is now an essential element of a healthy job market in Canada.
Looking at the breakdown by province, there’s no question which province produces the most action: Ontario. According to the Canadian Gaming Association, the total revenues in the province of Ontario reached $6.3 billion, with gross output at $12.6 billion and a value-added GDP of $6.9 billion. There are 25 casinos in the province with 23,579 slots.
It’s no surprise that Ontarians do the most gaming in the country because by population, it’s the densest province in the country. The 2019 population in Ontario was 14.4 million, as it encompasses the biggest city in Canada – Toronto.
What is surprising to see is which provinces produce the highest gambling numbers after that. While the province of Quebec is the second-most populous province in Canada at 8.4 million, their gambling revenues were merely at $2.7 billion. That marks the same output as Alberta and British Columbia, but those provinces are much smaller. British Columbia had a population of just over five million in 2019, while Alberta was at 4.3 million. It appears that the Western-most part of the country likes the taste of gaming.
Part of why there’s so much action in British Columbia is because it’s the province with the most casinos. There are 35 in total, which is the most of any province in Canada. Those casinos have a vital role in terms of employment as they produced a labour income of $1.8 billion, which incorporates all of the jobs necessary to run the casinos from oddsmakers to pit bosses to hosts.
Interestingly, much of these numbers aren’t as high as they could be if Canada weren’t so relaxed in terms of online gambling. In Canada, players can play at online casinos or sportsbooks from almost anywhere around the world. If there was regulation to keep that money in Canada and Canadian companies and governments were benefiting, all of these revenues would be significantly higher.
Although the lottery is mostly viewed as a separate entity altogether in most countries, that’s not exactly the case in Canada. Of course, the lottery does provide the selling of numbered tickets and giving away prizes to the winner(s) of the draw. Still, in Canada, the lottery also encompasses other forms of gambling. For example, in Ontario, the Ontario Lottery Corporation accepts sports bets and has an online casino. Customers still have to bet on sports in person at a location that sells what is known as Pro-Line, but casino players can download the PlayOLG Casino app and game from anywhere. With the Western Canada Lottery Corporation, which covers Alberta and British Columbia, things are different but encompass sports betting. In B.C. specifically, they have their online sportsbook and casino, where you can either bet on sports or play all sorts of online casino games.
With that being the case, you have to factor the lottery numbers as part of the casino revenues. Taking a look at the province-by-province breakdown, Ontario plays the most in terms of the lottery as they spent $4.16 billion on lotteries in 2019.
As for British Columbia, they were in second at 1.28 billion with Quebec in third at $955 million and Alberta virtually the same with $946 million in 2019. It’s interesting to note that Saskatchewan produced revenues of $773 million in terms of gaming across the province – both land-based and online – but when it comes to lotteries, they didn’t have nearly the same appetite. They were the province with the fourth-fewest lottery sales in 2019, producing just $226 million, which only bested New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the sparsely-populated Northwest Territories.