When it looked certain that Donald Trump—a man best known for firing people and inappropriate grabbing—was going to win the US presidency, half the country decided it was time to move to Canada. Searches for “How to Emigrate to Canada” increased tenfold, as did jokes that Canada were preparing to build their own border wall.
But the truth is, the migration had already happened a few years previous, and Trump had nothing to do with it. In reality, the Trump migration was nothing more than a few empty threats by voters who wanted to voice their frustrations and concerns. Few people actually made the trip north. But in 2011, many people did make that trip and it was all down to online gambling.
Las Vegas has always been a hotspot for professional gamblers. It gives them a chance to gamble with impunity in a city where anything goes. And prior to 2011, they could also gamble online. It didn’t matter where you lived in the country, you could log onto sites like PokerStars, Ultimate Poker and FullTilt and play. The same applied to many online casinos. It was a grey area, a virtual Wild West where nothing was technically within the law, but no one really cared.
In 2011, things changed. Those sites were indicted and a panic erupted. The charges that were filed weren’t entirely about the online gambling laws and the fact that these sites were using loop holes to get around them. It was all about how they processed payments from US customers—although it was clear that this was the US government’s way of biting back.
In the chaos that followed, most poker sites and online casinos shut their doors to US players and most of those players headed for Canada. The Great White North was hardly known for its gambling (offline or online) prior to this, but it has since become a mecca for it.
Online Gambling in Canada
Pokerstars is currently available all over the world, with hundreds of millions of people able to access it from countries where gambling is legal and widely available, including the UK, Australia and large parts of Europe. Yet despite that, you can’t fail to notice that the vast majority of players at the highest level hail from Canada. It’s not that they were all born here (although in the case of players like Jennifer Tilly and Daniel Negreanu, that is certainly the case) but that many of them now call it home.
A lot of revenue on online casinos also comes from Canada. So much so, in fact, that a new payment method has arisen just to cater for them. eChecks are practically unheard of around Europe and Australia, where the stats would tell you that the majority of legal gamblers live, but because these are popular in Canada, and because Canadians now rule the roost online, most casinos accept them.
This migration has been positive for the gambling industry and for Canada. It helps to pump money into online companies based in Canada, Australia and across Europe and Asia. It has helped Amaya (who own PokerStars) to become the largest gambling brand in the world and it has also forced many other gambling giants to cater for the Canadian market.
This has had a direct impact on offline gambling in Canada as well. The industry employs over 135,000 people across the country, which is roughly 0.5% of its total population, yet it is responsible for over $2 billion every year, which is roughly equal to the entire budget deficit. It has also helped the real estate, tourism and hospitality industries to grow, all of which account for around 15% of the total GDP, and the figures are on the increase. More casinos are being built, more online companies are getting involved and more money is being generated.
And that’s not including all of the money pumped into the economy by multimillionaire gamblers, poker players and sports bettors. These people spend freely, but they are also known to invest, all of which helps this country to grow.
Simply put, Canada, and the rest of the world, has gotten rich from this US migration. In fact, the only country that hasn’t benefited from it is the United States itself.
Will They Return?
Of course, the irony in all of this is that Trump could actually bring that money back into the United States. He is probably the only candidate in recent years that stands a chance of relaxing the gambling laws. He has a lot of religious supporters who will always look to take the moral high-ground where gambling is concerned. But Trump himself has invested heavily in this industry in the past. He has owned casinos, he has invested in Sin City and Atlantic City, and he understands the potential.
If he does relax the online gambling laws then the doors will open for all of those professional gamblers to return. But I wouldn’t blame them if they wanted to stay for another 4 or 8 years.