The merger of Apollo casino and Great Canadian Gaming

The merger of Apollo casino and Great Canadian Gaming 1

In a multi-billion dollar deal, US firm Apollo Global Management has bought Great Canadian Gaming, saving it from the severe financial difficulties it found itself in, safeguarding jobs (roughly 10 thousand people are employed by the organisation) and venues (including casinos, hospitality, and entertainment). Great Canadian Gaming operates 26 casinos across Canada, including venues in British Colombia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. 

Whilst there are some murmurings of discontent at a Canadian firm being bought out by a foreign investor, Apollo is keen to stress that they will be keeping operations and operational base in Canada, and it has been confirmed that the organisation will be headquartered in Toronto.

Once the deal is finalised in 2021, it is expected that the gaming company will be de-listed from the Canadian Stock Exchange pending regulatory compliance, and Apollo is hoping to help grow the company in the long term, as under the takeover Great Canadian Gaming will have more financial stability and flexibility. It is not the first time that Apollo, a New York based organisation with assets in excess of US$433 billion, has dipped its toes in the gambling waters, with investments in Italy’s Gamenet Group, as well as talks of investing in UK firm William Hill, and it is hoped this knowledge will bring rewards to Great Canadian Gaming.

Gambling in Canada

Canada has some of the world’s most relaxed gambling laws, whilst balancing the need to regulate the industry and protect customers. From the relative lawlessness of the pre-1970 period, where gambling was effectively illegal and the remit of organised crime, through to the 1970s and 80s where slowly but surely legislation was introduced to legalise gambling. This had the consequence of safeguarding players as well as ensuring tax revenue was collected and operators regulated to ensure fairness, that customers were not taken advantage of and money was not laundered. 

The industry has since gone from strength to strength, with land-based casinos proving popular, as well as a strong online presence more recently. More people are now choosing to play casino games online, this is mainly due to the variety of games available and the convenience of online casinos. There are now a vast array of different sites online that offer Canadians a variety of casino games, with some offering a range of niches and others focusing solely on one niche like online slots. 

Canada is an industry leader in the online gambling industry, with around 19.3 million Canadians actively gambling (2020 figures) both in person and online. The industry is dominated by individual operators, but some states, such as Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario and British Colombia, have launched their own gambling sites, looking to cash in on the positive market trends. 

It is estimated that in 2020 Canadians spent CA$4 billion in offshore casinos, and over CA$17 billion in home based casinos. This hyper-regulation and legalisation have ensured a steady revenue stream for the country. Gambling is popular with locals and tourists, and as well as the large resort-style casinos dotted around the different states, online and mobile gambling has increased in popularity, attracting a new demographic of casual gamblers.

How does US’ Gambling laws differ to Canada?

Where Canada has some of the most relaxed gambling laws in the world, the USA has some of the strictest. Whilst the US and Canada are similar in that the individual states are free to define their own laws around gambling, this is pretty much where the similarities end. Historically, the US has always seen some form of gambling, from the early Colonists bringing their traditions, in particular gambling on horse-racing, and set this as an elite pastime for the wealthy Virginians only. Additionally, state lotteries were used to help raise funds to run the original 13 states.

Throughout the history of gambling, different groups, religious or otherwise, have denounced gambling as sinful, immoral, reducing people to poverty, and influencing outcomes of events promoting corruption, and this has led to tightening and relaxing of gambling rules throughout history, and also accounts for the disparity in state laws regarding gambling. Some states, such as Nevada, have made their fame and fortune off the back of gambling. Reno and Las Vegas have become popular places for tourists from far and wide to visit with the sole intention of visiting the world-famous casinos.

Different states have different laws around gambling which impact how widespread gambling is in the US:

  • PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992) was overturned in 2018, allowing states to set their own laws around sports betting
  • Indian Gaming Regulatory Act 1988 provides leeway for casinos build on Indian reservation land
  • 48 states have some form of gambling, even if just in the form of state lotteries; Hawaii and Utah have banned all forms of gambling
  • Only Nevada and Louisiana have state-wide casino-style gambling, all others have limited this to distinct geographical areas (for example Atlantic City in New Jersey, and Tunica, Mississippi)

There are also restrictions on online gambling, in particular due to the Federal Wire Act 1961 outlawing inter-state gambling and the Unlawful Internet Enforcement Act 2006, which outlawed financial transactions involving online gambling providers located offshore.

Despite individual states being able to have more control over their gambling laws, without a united approach and drive to further legalise gambling, in particular online gambling, it is unlikely that it will be enough to rival Canada’s status in the gambling world. The recent merger is also unlikely to have a marked impact on advancing the US gambling position, though will undoubtedly bring benefits to both organisations involved in the long term.

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