Every summer, Toronto has a casino downtown! The facility is easy to access before The Ex opens because it’s on lakeshore Blvd at the end of the Bathurst St bus route and surrounded by empty parking lots. But after August 19th, casino patrons must pay $20 to enter the fairgrounds. At that point, the empty patio around the Better Living Center becomes a bustling beer garden with live entertainment where patrons can relax and order food such as roast turkey legs, corndogs, and of course the ubiquitous burger & fries direct from midway vendors. Domestic lager is $10.50 pint and imported beers are $11.50 each.
CNE Casino is operated by Canadian National Exhibition Association (CNEA) and its Board of Directors. The CNEA is governed under the jurisdiction of two Acts of the Province of Ontario: the Canadian National Exhibition Association Act, 2000, and the Agricultural and Horticultural Organizations Act, R.S.O. 1990, chapter A.9. The casino is situated inside the Better Living Center on a municipal site known as Exhibition Place which is administered by the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place, a local board of management of the City of Toronto. The CNE Casino is a seasonal attraction that’s only available for less than fifty days each summer. It’s the best part of the Canadian National Exhibition and opens a month earlier than The Ex, on July 20th and runs to the end of the exhibition on September 7th.
CNE casino offers a variety of classic table games. One of the big differences between playing roulette in a real casino versus an online casino is the excitement shared by other live players, but also the simplicity of the authentic game. True North Bet online casino offers forty-two different flavors of roulette and is available 24/7 every day of the year, but nothing beats playing the real game. There are eight roulette tables which impart a classic experience. If you ask an experienced croupier which number is the most popular in terms of betting, they’ll answer17, because the 17-pocket has seen famously big wins for centuries and that must be part of its allure.
Roulette is a casino game named after the French word meaning little wheel. At the CNE, and in most modern casinos, the roulette wheel mechanism is a hybrid of the original gaming wheel invented in 1720 and an upstart Italian game called Biribi. When wagering, a player may choose to bet on a single number, various groupings of numbers, the color red or black, whether the number is odd or even, or if the numbers are high (19–36) or low (1–18).
“The CNE Casino employs over 500 people every season. There are over 400 staff members offering games of chance inside the casino, the vast majority of which receive some form of on-the-job training,” says Gary Bostock the CNE Casino Director. He informed me that it takes between sixty to eighty hours to train a young person as a Table Games Dealer, and not all trainees are offered positions on staff. The hiring begins in May and paid training regimes are implemented in June and July after which successful candidates must pass a proficiency test or table test conducted by industry professionals who set a high standard.
Visiting the CNE Casino
CNE Casino offers Charity Blackjack where the tie goes to the house and betting is limited. Similar style games include Lucky Ladies Blackjack where all cards are dealt face-up. There are four Spanish 21 tables which is a faster version of Blackjack played with eight decks which have the number 10 cards removed. Standard rules apply from that point, but with bonuses and super bonuses. The Super Bonus in Spanish 21 happens when a player draws a pair that’s the same suit and doesn’t split them, and then gets another card that’s the same value and the same suit, and the dealer’s ‘up’ card is also the same value card (of any suit). If and when all these special circumstances occur, a player is immediately paid $1000 on the spot and everyone at the table gets a $50 dollar “Envy Bonus”.
CNE Casino will never be accused of being pretentious. The décor will remind most visitors of a small-town hockey arena complete with a public address speaker system. Because it’s a city-owned and managed attraction, I was able to negotiate my way inside with my camera. I snapped these pictures of them making ready for the day before it opened for business on Tuesday 9th August.
The first thing you see and hear upon entry is the clickety-clacking Crown & Anchor table which is perfectly in keeping with the history of gambling is Canada. The game was played by sailors in the 1700s with special dice which had the six symbols etched in them and are an enduring hold-over from the British Empire, as represented by the crown, and its mighty Navy, as commemorated by the anchor. Today the game is played with a spinning wheel and is popular at charity casinos and at small town fairs and is offered in booths as a carnival attraction throughout the CNE fairgrounds.
Spanish 21 is a faster version of Blackjack. It’s played with eight decks which all have the number 10 cards removed, and then the standard rules apply but with bonuses and super bonuses. Its almost like slots –
The Super Bonus – the strangest thing happens if you draw a pair that’s the same suit and don’t split and then get another card that’s the same value and the same suit; it’s three of a kind, but if the dealer’s up card is also the same value card (of any suit) then a Super Bonus occurs and the player is paid $1000 on the spot and everyone at the table gets a fifty dollar “Envy Bonus”. How many times does that happen every day?
Poker is the Most Popular Game at the CNE Casino
The people who line up outside in the morning, before the casino opens at noon, are headed straight for the poker lounge where there are twenty-eight tables that are separated from the rest of the casino behind a Plexiglas barrier. There are simply not enough spots available for everyone to play at any given time which is why people must register and wait; the area is restricted because of supply and demand.
The betting limits are $100 per game. The maximum bet anywhere in the entire facility is only $100 and the minimum is $1 bet. The pay-outs are standard or better than elsewhere for example the blackjack pays 3 to 2 and not 6 to 5 as in many online casinos. The difference between 3:2 blackjack and 6:5 blackjack is simple. If you have a winning hand, you get paid $3 dollars for every $2 that you bet. In 6:5 you get paid $6 for every $5 you bet.
The monotone voice that calls-out names out over the PA speaker system is the announcer looking for patrons who have placed their names on the list. Each year the casino offers a poker tournament. The 2022 CNE Hold’Em Poker Tournament has prizes totaling over $150,000.
The two Texas Hold-em Bonus Poker Tables offer play based on traditional multi-player Texas Hold’em poker, but the game differs in that there’s no bet after the river card and the player is allowed to make both an ante bet, and a bonus bet on their original cards. The aim of the game is for your Poker hand to beat the Dealer’s hand. The bonus wager comes into play when Players compare their two-hole cards to a payout table. Players need not win in the main game to be paid on the bonus wager, provided their bet was placed prior to any cards being dealt.
There are two Three Card Poker tables which is a variation of the classic game that features three ways to play and four ways to win. This game has increased in popularity in modern casinos because it’s fun and easy to learn. Three Card Poker is like getting two games in one because not only can players compete against the dealer, but they also win bonuses with their cards alone; a straight-flush pays 40 to 1, and three-of-a-kind pays 25 to 1 at the CNE Casino.
CNE Casino is open every day including Sundays, except for Labour Day – Monday, September 5, 2022. The hours are from 12PM noon to 6AM. Because it’s time-limited and happens during Canada’s largest outdoor exhibition, it’s not set-up to cultivate relationships with high wealth gamblers or offer any of the amenities you might find at other casinos in the world; there are no steak dinners, or free hotel rooms or continental breakfasts for High Rollers.