Alberta Allocates $1 Million Toward Exploring Open Online Gambling Market

Written By Matthew Lomon on March 4, 2024
Online casino graphic in front of a scenic of Banff National Park in Alberta. Alberta is allocating $1 million toward exploring open online gambling market

Slowly but surely, Alberta is inching towards becoming the next Canadian province to launch an open online gambling sector.

The province announced last week that it is designating $1 million for a review of its current online gambling structure. The evaluation marks a potential step forward as province officials explore the potential of Alberta online gambling, implementing an Ontario-like iGaming market.

The news came as part of the government’s 2024 budget announcement. The $70-plus billion spending plan included a section, albeit brief, dedicated specifically to the review. It reads:

“$1 million in 2024-25 will support a review of the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act and supporting Regulation, with the objectives of reducing the regulatory burden on business and finding ways to increase contributions to Alberta charities and community facilities.”

Dale Nally, Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction will captain the exploratory venture.

In February, PlayCanada confirmed through a quote from Nally’s office that he is working on an open, regulated Alberta online gambling market similar to Ontario’s.

Budget announcement shows movement from ideation to action

In a few short weeks, the process of bringing an open, regulated online gambling regime to Alberta has begun to materialize. While nothing overly concrete is imminent, the plan is already further ahead than it was last month.

As mentioned earlier, the process really got off the ground back in February when Nally attended the ICE gambling conference in London. Here, the Alberta Minister met with several of the industry’s heavy hitters, including Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey.

The pair bounced ideas back and forth, with Downey taking the lead in educating Nally on what Ontario online casinos and sports betting in Ontario have brought since going live in April 2022.

Nally’s interest in picking Downey’s brain stems from the mandate letter Nally received last July from Alberta Premier Danielle Smith. Among the 10 initiatives Smith expects Nally to deliver on, the first involves finalizing Alberta’s online gambling strategy. This particular initiative, which is also present in the Ministry of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction’s business plan for 2024-27, reads:

“Working with Indigenous partners, finish developing and implementing Alberta’s online gaming strategy with a focus on responsible gaming and provincial and Indigenous revenue generation.”

Fast forward, and it appears Nally is keen on holding up his end of the bargain.

Alberta’s online gambling potential intriguing to operators

PointsBet Canada was not shy about vocalizing its interest in joining a prospective Alberta online gambling market. In its 2024 first-half financial performance report, the Australia-based operator included a section titled “Canada Business Review.”

In particular, the presentation featured a slide called “Canada Opportunity.” This slide contained a map of Canada with Ontario highlighted in blue, and Alberta, along with British Columbia, in red. The accompanying blurb said that Ontario accounts for 38% of the Canadian population. So, expanding to Alberta and BC would add 12% and 14%, respectively. Between the three provinces, that’s 64% of the country’s entire population.

Further, according to PointsBet’s projections, Alberta would add 11% to the nation’s net gaming revenue. With BC’s 12% and Ontario’s 53%, that’s a total of 76% of Canada’s NGR.

The desire for Alberta to join the likes of Ontario is growing, and not just within the province. Industry players view the Western region as an ideal iGaming destination, and Nally very much agrees.

“Alberta can be a leading hub for iGaming, with a strong emphasis on openness and a free market,” the minister’s office told PlayCanada in February. “We have low corporate taxes, streamlined regulations and high disposable incomes. These conditions will allow us to establish ourselves as a premier destination for the iGaming industry.”

Photo by PlayCanada
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Matthew Lomon

Matthew Lomon has been a contributor at Catena Media’s network of regional sites since July 2022. He first broke into covering the legal North American gambling industry with PlayCanada. Since then, Matthew's reporting has extended to PlayMichigan, PlayPennsylvania, and PlayIllinois. Based out of Toronto, Ontario, Matthew is an avid (bordering on fanatic) sports fan.

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