Alberta Mulls Over Running Online Gambling

February 5, 2015 •

Albertan Government seriously considers rolling the dice on online betting

alberta logoLegal or not, gambling and betting aficionados living in Alberta are finding new ways to place their bets despite regulations. Bill Robinson, the CEO of the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) claims that currently, Albertans are spending between $120 million and $150 million on “grey market sites” based overseas. Which is precisely why they are considering new strategies to raise revenue and line the province’s coffers.

According to an annual report released by its neighbouring province’s lottery corporation, British Columbia brought in $91 million through it’s online gaming website alone, last year. Playnow.com, launched in 2010 by BC’s lotteries agency became the first jurisdiction in North America to run a legal, government-run online casino. Soon after, in 2013, the province of Manitoba started its own brand of Playnow.com. Ontario and Quebec launched their online sites this month, and the Atlantic Provinces will soon follow.

With huge amounts of potential revenue seeping out the cracks, spent on international online gaming sites instead, Alberta is losing its chance to regulate this ‘grey area’. So, they are stepping up to the plate and examining all the potential benefits of bringing online gambling to their residents legally.

Robinson wants to offer Albertans updated and modern gaming environments, he says, “We continue to strive to modernize and to look at new ways to provide the experience that Albertans want.” What Albertans want are interactive casino-style games, including slots and table games such as blackjack, baccarat, single-player poker and roulette, as well as traditional lottery tickets.

The new-found revenue from these games could enrich local charities and social programs. Currently, the Albertan government collects $1.6 billion each year from government-run casinos, $300 million of which goes straight to its charities.

If the plan gets approval from the Alberta Treasury Board and the Ministry of Finance, Albertans will join their fellow Canadians and be able to play poker, bet on games or play the slot machines from home.

Ahead of approval Alberta has already started to hedge its bets on online gambling by looking for bidders on ‘turnkey’ sites. The AGLC has a tender out for ready-to-go projects, the deadline is February 26 for interested companies to submit their bids. In short, they are exploring their options as to “what models exist in the marketplace on the Internet gaming front” says Robinson.

He continues:

“We’re going out into the market place to see what types of programs exist and would be best for us.” He claims that despite the risk of creating addictions and younger gamblers it also creates the opportunity “to push out responsible gaming messaging.”

In response to Robinson’s claims, gaming expert Robert Williams, a research co-ordinator for the Alberta Gambling Research Institute warned the AGLC that government-run gambling sites will attract new users who wouldn’t usually visit private off-shore sites, but would be more willing to try a legitimized one that is sanctioned by the government, seemingly safer, and thus was socially acceptable.

The debate goes on, but with all the pros and cons now laid out on the table like a game of cards, it will be interesting to see what hand the Albertan government deals to its residents, and if they will give them a chance to ante up online.