Canada’s Secret Nightlife: Casinos

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It might be snowing in Quebec and raining in Edmonton, clear in Whistler and stormy in Vancouver; there might be winds sweeping the prairies of Saskatchewan and mountains bearded with fir trees in British Columbia – and on any given day, there’s probably a polar bear trying to get into somebody’s car in Churchill, Manitoba.

Canada is a place of extreme contrasts, both in terms of its environment and its urban centers. However, the vastness of the country presents a problem for tourists. While it’s possible to go anywhere and find something new to love, it’s all too easy to follow the guide book to the tourist traps and miss the treasures in-between.

But it’s not just mountains you leave forlorn and undiscovered; places like Vancouver and Toronto have thriving gaming scenes, with Montreal Casino boasting more than 3,200 slots on six floors. At the risk of leaving you in a queue snaking around the block though, here’s a quick look at a few of the secret (and weird) casinos in Canada.

Rideau Carleton Raceway & Casino, Ottawa

It’s easy to find websites offering lots of different gaming experiences but offline it can be a different matter. For example, while a brand like 888poker manages to mix the traditional card game with variants like Hold ‘em Stud, Omaha and SNAP, a type of fast-fold poker, on its website, brick-and-mortar types tend to stick with the easier 3-card game. The Rideau Carleton Raceway takes the concept of “mixed entertainments venue” to its logical extreme though, melding 1,250 slots and electronic table games (blackjack, roulette, etc.) with regular bingo and chariot-style horse racing. It’s only a small place, located a few miles southeast of Ottawa, but it’s an isolated gaming pocket in a city better known for its museums and snow.

Century Casino & Bowling, Calgary

Never will you have to make the choice between going bowling or playing blackjack again. Century Casino & Bowling in Downtown Calgary is on the modest side of things, with around 500 slot machines and a handful of table games, but a joint bowling and casino joint is a rare beast indeed in Canada.

Century also offers black light weekends – games played in the moonlight of a UV lamp – and a snack kiosk serving fried stuff and veg. Perhaps the biggest advantage of the Century over the other venues on this list is that it serves as an option for families; the teens can simply leave their adults in the casino while they visit the lanes.  

Casino Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia

Way off the beaten path, requiring a trip through New Brunswick to the Atlantic Coast (or through Maine from Montreal), the Casino Nova Scotia has more than 500 slot machines, including branded favourites like Game of Thrones, a pair of roulette variants (zero and double-zero), three-card and Hold ‘em poker, and a craps pit.

It’s hard to talk about the Nova Scotia without mentioning the building itself though. Like the Montreal Casino, its design is almost worth the visit alone – it’s partly suspended over Atlantic waters 70 feet deep. With weekly jackpots of nearly $1m and entertainment that ranges from bands and comedy nights to pole dancing, the Nova Scotia is a familiar place in a unique setting.

Now back to those mountains we were talking about…


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

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