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Ottawa Online Gambling

Ottawa Online GamblingAs the capital city of Canada, Ottawa represents one of the most important metropolitan areas in the country. Located in southern Ontario, the city also borders Quebec, with its cross-province neighbor Gatineau combining with it to create a metro area that is home to more than 1.2 million residents.

Being the political center of the nation, Ottawa has certainly had a role to play in the history of gambling in Canada, though perhaps not as large of one as you might think: much like in the USA, where gambling is largely left to the states to determine, the gaming industry is mostly regulated on a provincial basis here. But as a part of Ontario, Ottawa is subject to the same gambling laws as the rest of the province, which has seen a rapid expansion of casinos over the past 25 years. More recently, the province has jumped into the world of online gambling, allowing for a state-run monopoly to offer regulated, licensed games to residents – though many still play on overseas sites.

Casinos Arrive in 1990s

As in most of Canada, gambling’s expansion through Ontario was slow to come. Throughout most of the 20th century, only bingo and parimutuel betting on horse races were offered, limiting the betting options for those living in the province.

However, that began to change in 1975, with the passage of the Ontario Lottery Corporation Act. This bill allowed for the state to offer lottery drawings, which it began doing later that year with the Wintario jackpot game. In the years since then, the structure of the lottery has been updated several times: in 1999, for instance, that original bill was repealed and replaced by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation Act, which set up the current firm that runs virtually all gaming in the province.

Today, the Corporation is known simply as OLG. While it still offers a variety of lottery games – including access to major national jackpots like Lotto 6/49 and Lotto Max, as well as a few sports betting games – OLG is also responsible for overseeing the other aspects of the gaming industry throughout the province: most notably, the many casinos that have proliferated throughout the region over the past two decades.

The idea to bring full casino gaming to the province began to take hold in the early 1990s. The plan was extremely contentious at the time, with many arguing that rather than flood Ontario with an incredible new revenue stream, it would instead take much needed money from those who could least afford to lose it, all while attracting crime and causing social problems thanks to an increase in problem gambling.

While the first venue, Casino Windsor, opened in 1993, those arguments have never really stopped – but neither has the expansion of the industry. Today, OLG owns ten casinos throughout the province, some of which they also operate (others are operated privately, by companies like Caesars Entertainment and Penn National). All told, these and other aspects of the gaming industry now bring over $2 billion a year in net profits to Ontario.

Interestingly, the most accessible resort casino in the Ottawa area may not even be in the province. Instead, that honor likely goes to the Casino du Lac-Leamy, located in nearby Gatineau, Quebec. While it’s over the provincial border, it is just about a 10 minute drive from Ottawa, and is worth going slightly out of your way for: with over 1,800 slots and 64 table games, as well with the amenities of a major resort, this is a legitimately impressive gaming venue.

Many horse racing tracks are also active throughout the province, aided by a similar expansion in their offerings. As in many other parts of the world, many tracks have become “racinos,” offering slots and other electronic gaming options alongside their race schedule. These games are generally operated by the OLG, which has a presence at 14 tracks throughout Ontario.

That number includes the Rideau Carleton Raceway in Ottawa, which began offering up slot machines in 2000. Now known as the Rideau Carleton Entertainment Centre, it includes both bingo and slots alongside live racing, though that arrangement was threatened in recent years, as the government at one point seemed set to remove slots at tracks, a move that could have effectively killed off the industry, especially with the loss of subsidies that helped keep racing profitable for tracks. On the bright side for Rideau Carleton, the provincial government did allow for racing to return on Thursdays after briefly restricting the races to Sundays only, a move that many officials said would make the racing operations unviable.

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OLG Operates Online Site

In recent years, the OLG’s influence over gaming has expanded beyond the physical world and onto the Internet as well. There are now opportunities for players in Ottawa and the rest of Ontario to enjoy their favorite casino games online, and to do so on sites that are regulated by the provincial government.

While other provinces may have gotten into the practice earlier, it was only a matter of time before the OLG launched their own lottery-backed gambling site. That came in the early days of 2015, as PlayOLG.com launched that January in an attempt to keep revenue from Internet gamblers in local government coffers, rather than watch it go to overseas sites that accepted Canadian players.

To be certain, the site got off to a bumpy start, as there were countless complaints about service outages and bugs during the first few days after it went live. Some users also complained about how much information they had to give in order to open an account: something that was put into place in order to ensure that only Ontario residents would take part in real money play. But there were promising signs as well, including aggressive promotional efforts that rivaled those of popular foreign operators – a lack of which had been a complaint levied against many other provincially-operated gaming sites.

Today, PlayOLG offers a wide range of games to its users. For starters, it is possible to buy lotto tickets through the portal, including for major drawings like Lotto Max and Lotto 6/49. But the real fun is in the casino area, which features a variety of games from developers including IGT, Bally Technologies, and Boss Media. Along with lots of slots (a given at most Internet casinos), there’s also a fairly good range of table games and video poker, along with some specialty games like keno. It also looks like the OLG is trying to work on adding some integration with the horse racing industry, though that has yet to go live on their site.

Unfortunately for the Ontario government, the existence of PlayOLG.com doesn’t preclude gamblers in the province from playing on overseas sites that are still accepting Canadians. While the number of operators who market their games to players here has shrunk a bit as regulation has taken hold, there are still plenty of options out there. And while the OLG would be the first to tell you that it is illegal for these companies to take Canadian customers without a license, it’s also true that there are no laws making it illegal for anyone in Ottawa (or elsewhere in the country) to wager their money on these sites.

That presents gamblers here with two options, both of which have advantages and disadvantages. Those who continue to play with foreign operators will argue that they get far more software and gaming options this way, can sometimes take advantage of promotions that leave those offered on the state-owned site in the dust, and feel like – at least on some sites – the odds may be better for them.

But even if you accept all of that as true, there are still points in favor of the local option. The biggest one, of course, is that the consumer protections are much more robust if you’re playing on the OLG’s own site. Having local governmental oversight gives players an obvious avenue for recourse if something goes wrong, and provides a level of trust, security, and transparency that other sites can’t match. There’s also the fact that the money you spend there will stay in the province – something that may appeal to you if you’re not otherwise swayed one way or the other.

Mostly Stable, but Further Refinement Possible

At the moment, the gambling industry in Ottawa and Ontario as a whole seems to be in a pretty stable and mature place. Still, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t discussions to be had and adjustments that might be made in the years to come.

With PlayOLG.com still being a very new enterprise, it’s almost certain that officials will take a look not only at the immediate revenue figures that come out of the site, but also how well they are doing at retaining players over the long haul. There’s really nowhere in the world where strongly regulated online gambling has been around for very long, so it may be quite a while before governments and operators are sure exactly how to make everything work optimally.

Another area of concern could be the future of the lottery, the largest revenue generator of all for the province. Sales have been dropping precipitously in recent years, with both a lack of interest from younger adults and a dearth of oversized jackpots being blamed. Other questions remain to be answered as well, including the long-term viability of the horse racing industry, the legality of casual bingo, and whether the OLC can be held accountable when gambling addicts commit crimes to make further bets.

But while these and many other issues will be debated or considered in time, the overall picture for gambling in Ottawa shouldn’t change much. We expect the full range of options to be offered to residents for the foreseeable future.

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