Casinos have much the same image in everybody’s mind, usually one of smartly dressed patrons, green felt, and chandeliers. But gambling halls can be as different from one another as any other kind of business. In Canada, where the style of living can change dramatically depending on the latitude, visitors are as likely to find a luxury casino as they are a few game rooms in a snowbound lodge.
Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall, out in the wilds of the Yukon, is closer to the latter description than something that dominates the Vancouver skyline. Built in 1901 by the Arctic Brotherhood, Gertie’s is a protected heritage site in Dawson City. It has picked up a number of claims to fame over the years, including its status as the first and (now) the oldest casino in Canada, having been founded in 1971.
The history of casinos in Canada is therefore quite a short one. There are just 100 gambling halls in a country of nearly 38m. That’s 380,000 people per casino. Compare that to, say, Las Vegas, which has 144 casinos just within the city limits. However, Canada has quite a significant online gambling industry that has increased the number of people who identify as gamblers to between 19 and 30m.
The space-themed Genesis Casino is one of countless entertainment hubs serving games to Canadians. The site has an array of slots, including Super Lion and Buffalo King Megaways, but blackjack, roulette, and live experiences are available to play at Genesis Casino in Canada too. It’s debatable whether online casinos will ever replace land-based ones as the two sectors arguably attract different demographics.
Diamond Tooth Gertie’s stands as the only non-profit land-based casino in Canada. The establishment takes cash bets much the same as any other gambling hall but its profits are returned to the community by the Klondike Visitors Association. This tourism organization aims to raise the profile of the local area and uses funds from Gertie’s to sponsor events and maintain sites of special interest.
The one question that remains to be answered is – who was Gertie? Vaudeville entertainer Gertie Lovejoy is described by modern accounts as a glamorous beau of the local miners. However, while there was a Ms. Lovejoy during the time of the Klondike Gold Rush, contemporary sources reveal that her legend was just that – a legend. The real Gertie is likely to have been a local socialite rather than a dancer that wore a diamond between her front teeth.
It’s a nice story but one that has parallels with (and is perhaps inspired by) Kathleen Rockwell, better known as Klondike Kate. Ms. Rockwell, another vaudeville dancer born in the late nineteenth century, was known for flirting with and swindling the Yukon miners. She would eventually turn her hand to more charitable endeavors though, helping the homeless during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In any case, Diamond Tooth Gertie’s looms much larger in stature because of the legend of its namesake, even if her life story might have been embellished.