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Alberta Making Progress Toward Ontario-Like Sports Betting

Alberta is putting the pieces in place to establish its own Ontario-like system for online sports betting and internet casino gambling.

May 15, 2024 • 13:21 ET

• 2 min read

Alberta is putting the pieces in place to establish its own Ontario-like system for online sports betting and internet casino gambling.

The Western Canadian province would be the first to follow Ontario’s example, and it could do so by next year, according to some in the gambling industry. Bruce Caughill, managing director for Canada at BetRivers, had this to say during a panel at last week’s SBC Summit North America conference in New Jersey. 

It’s been interesting to see it unfold, because there is a desire in the Alberta government to make this happen yesterday, but I think they’re starting to understand that to make things happen even quickly takes some time.

Laying a legislative foundation

Caughill noted legislation was tabled last month in Alberta that could allow the provincial government to create a separate entity to “conduct and manage” online gambling. That entity would be in addition to the provincially owned Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis Commission, or AGLC.

AGLC is currently the only authorized iGaming operator in Alberta via its Play Alberta platform. If Alberta were to adopt an Ontario-like system, though, AGLC could be just one of many regulated operators in the province, which has a population size similar to that of Kentucky and Oregon. Ontario created an additional “conduct and manage” agency of its own, iGaming Ontario, before launching its competitive market for online gambling.

Bill 16, the legislation containing the new powers to “conduct and manage,” the legal term for controlling gambling in Canada, was passed by a committee of the whole in the Alberta legislature on Tuesday.

Caughill said he expects provincial lawmakers to approve it “shortly,” which would put 2025 in play for a launch of a competitive iGaming market in the province.

Secondly, there seems to be every indication that they’re simply going to white label the Ontario licensing regime. That’s sort of the hope that you can transition right into that model if you’re already in Ontario.

Confidence from the courts

Ontario’s iGaming market launched in April 2022 and now includes almost 50 operators, including the provincial lottery, as well as more than 1.3 million active player accounts. The regulatory framework was also bolstered this week by an Ontario court dismissing a legal challenge of the province’s online gambling scheme.

The judgment could inspire confidence in Alberta, which has been kicking around the idea of broadening online sports betting in the province for a few years.

Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction Dale Nally has been tasked with developing a new online gaming strategy, and the most recent provincial budget set aside $1 million for Nally’s ministry to review Alberta’s gambling law.

Caughill suggested Alberta is eyeing more than just online sports betting as well, as Canadian provinces tend to define iGaming as both internet sports wagering and casino gambling.

“That’s certainly their public intention,” he said.

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