Alberta to Start Discussions with Gaming Stakeholders in 2024

Darko Ilievski by Darko Ilievski Published: May 28, 2024 Reading time: 4min
alberta to start discussions with gaming stakeholders

Following the allocation of $1 million in the province's 2024 budget to evaluate the viability of a regulating betting and gaming market, Alberta says it will initiate talks with stakeholders later this year. No official announcement has been made yet by the province regarding when it will begin to take concrete action to investigate the possibility of a regulated online gambling market.

There has been some action in terms of planning since the announcement in March of the funding made available for the review of the Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Act. According to a spokesman, the government plans to involve various parties in discussions this year. The province will begin its talks with the First Nations, operators of the Racing Entertainment Centres, and traditional casinos this year.

The main objective is to learn more about their ideas on how to grow iGaming in Alberta. This will help them to find a way that benefits everyone, including the province, Albertans, and its market. With an emphasis on responsible gaming, the government of Alberta is dedicated to collaborating with all stakeholders to complete the development and implementation of the province's online gambling policy.

Any development of Alberta's iGaming policy must consider the interests of Albertan citizens and the specific needs of its gaming market. The gaming laws for the provinces were last revised in December 2022. Last year, PlayAlberta's exclusive operating rights were maintained by the Alberta Court of Appeal. However, Nally and other supporters continue to push for the opening of a regulated market.

Alberta Looks to Ontario for Success

The budget's evaluation aims to ascertain Alberta's viability as a market open for online gambling. There is also an emphasis on investigating methods to lessen the regulatory load on enterprises and figuring out ways to boost donations to charitable organizations and community amenities in Alberta. PlayAlberta is the only platform currently available for online gambling in Alberta. It is government-owned and run by the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission.

This results in a monopolized system for legal online sports betting in Alberta. Comparable to the one that existed in Ontario before its opening to independently run sportsbooks and iGaming providers in April 2022. Alberta, with 4.7 million residents, is Canada's fourth-largest province. In size, it compares to states like Louisiana and Kentucky in the United States. Numerous sports clubs, including the NHL's Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and two CFL teams call it home.

Provincial regulated market advocates argue that permitting third-party online gambling and betting will generate substantial income. Especially if it operates within a well-established legal framework to cater to a sizable population of sports lovers and bettors. Nally made a statement last month saying Alberta's streamlined regulations, low corporate taxes, and high disposable income make it an ideal location for iGaming. It is challenging to compare the current open market in Ontario with a potential expansion into Alberta. In part because it is uncertain if Wild Rose Country will follow a compared structure.

However, it's understandable why Nally and other supporters are keeping a watch on Ontario. In its second year of operation, the province brought in around $2.5 billion. Within its first two years, the gaming-related tax income alone brought in hundreds of millions of dollars. Several businesses operating in Ontario, including BetMGM and PointsBet, have made it known that they believe Alberta presents a significant opportunity for outside operators should it become available to them.

According to the Alberta budget, net revenue from gaming, lotteries, cannabis, and liquor sales will decrease in 2024-2025. The result relates to increases in operating costs from system modernization and upgrades, with PlayAlberta Casino remaining the only legal gaming option.

Working with First Nations is a Top Priority

It is not unexpected that the First Nations are included explicitly as the consultation group of choice in the statement from the office of Nally. The province consistently states that when considering gambling expansion, Indigenous communities will be given top priority. Many of Alberta's physical casinos, such as Eagle River Casino, Bear Hills Casino, and River Cree Resort, are run or co-operated by First Nations and situated on their territory. The primary priority is to make sure they are a significant part of the discussion around growing the digital sector of the province.

In July 2023, Nally received a mandate letter from Alberta Premier Danielle Smith that stressed the need to collaborate with Native partners. This is to advance both the development and implementation of the online gaming strategy in Alberta, focussed on indigenous revenue generating and responsible gaming.

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