The State and Future Prospects of Alberta's Online Gambling Market

More than half of Alberta online casinos market remains dominated by unregulated sites, as reported by market data firm H2 Gambling Capital. This reveals a significant opportunity for a regulated commercial market.

The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) reported that its Play Alberta platform has captured over 45% of the online gambling market in less than four years. The platform boasts over 313,000 registered users. AGLC’s Vice President of iGaming, Dan Keene, highlighted that around 9% of Alberta’s legal-age population has registered on Play Alberta, which he considers impressive for a platform not yet four years old.

For the fiscal year ending March 31, the AGLC estimated that Play Alberta handled $5.36 billion in total bets, contributing $234 million to Alberta’s general revenue fund, an increase from $179 million the previous year. Despite this growth, more than half of online gaming activities still occur on unregulated sites, meaning many players are exposed to platforms without strict privacy or player protection standards.

Paul Burns, President and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, noted that Alberta has historically had high per-capita gambling spending. However, much of this spending remains outside provincial regulatory parameters.

Keene acknowledged the long-standing presence of various gaming providers in Alberta and emphasized the need for safe and regulated options to capture this market share. He pointed out that approximately 50-55% of gaming funds are not retained within Alberta. Keene stressed the importance of providing a secure market to ensure compliance and inspire player confidence.

Support for a Regulated Market

Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction, Dale Nally, has been tasked by Premier Danielle Smith to review the province’s gaming options. Last month, the Alberta legislature passed Bill 16, granting the provincial government authority to manage gaming independently from the AGLC. This legislation, the Red Tape Reduction Statutes Amendment Act, permits the entry of commercial online gaming operators to compete with AGLC.

Nally has indicated that Alberta might look to Ontario’s open-license market as a model for its own iGaming expansion. Brandon Aboultaif, Nally’s press secretary, highlighted Alberta’s unique market attributes, including a young population, high incomes, and a favorable taxation system, alongside passionate sports fans.

Keene reiterated AGLC’s support for exploring different gaming models. He acknowledged the presence of numerous competitors and expressed full support for the minister’s mandate to expand regulated gaming. Keene emphasized the maturity of Alberta’s market and the need for regulatory measures to ensure safety and capture provincial revenues.

Consultations with First Nations

Consultations with First Nations representatives, as promised earlier this spring, have begun. Nally’s office has engaged with Treaty 6, 7, and 8 First Nations and will continue discussions with other representatives throughout the summer. These consultations aim to understand the potential impacts and opportunities of an expanded gaming model on First Nations communities.

Keene underscored the importance of considering the implications for First Nations populations and gaming operations in any regulatory expansion. Nally’s office also plans to consult traditional casino operators and Racing Entertainment Centre operators this summer to gather their perspectives.

Sources:

  1. https://www.covers.com/industry/play-alberta-stake-drake-illegal-sports-betting-igaming-june-2024
  2. https://www.canadiangamingbusiness.com/2024/06/11/alberta-igaming-consultations-begin/
  3. https://digitalcommons.osgoode.yorku.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?params=/context/jlsp/article/1327/&path_info=9._First_Nations_Gaming_in_Canada.pdf
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