Alberta Looks for Two Initial Proponents in its Commercial Sports Betting Market

Alberta is moving closer to launching a commercial sports betting market that will offer single-event wagers.

Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis (AGLC) has now begun accepting bids from prospective vendors that wish to enter the province’s market, welcoming interested parties to apply through Alberta Purchasing Connection.

An AGLC release notes that while Alberta is working towards retail and online sports betting options with mobile extensions, to be established in 2022, it is opening up on a limited-operator model at first. As such, AGLC is seeking just two proponents initially, “to provide some flexibility and options in the first phase”. The release says AGLC will consider additional opportunities as the market continues to develop.

The proposal process for vendors will close on January 31, 2022 and the successful proponents will be announced once awarded.

Since the enacting of Bill C-218 in late August, Alberta’s numerous casinos have spent months pondering the addition of retail sports betting along with online options, while Play Alberta, AGLC’s regulated online gaming website, added a sports betting platform to its offerings within a week. That online platform and with some in-person retail offerings from Western Canada Lottery Corporation’s Sport Select platform are currently the only avenues for Albertan bettors to place wagers.

Sports teams will be involved

The province’s sports teams are also looking for a multitude of ways to get involved, reports Sports Handle. Indeed, the release adds that AGLC has maintained ongoing communication with representatives of the casino industry and the Alberta Sports Coalition, which represents the province’s four major teams: NHL franchises Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers and CFL teams Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Elks.

Kandice Machado, AGLC President & Chief Executive Officer, said that the winning bidders will have the opportunity to help those professional sports teams set up sportsbooks at their home venues, reports Covers.

Much different to Ontario

AGLC says it will continue to monitor other provincial lottery markets while gathering feedback from the Alberta sports betting industry in order to safely expand vendor opportunities in the future.

On that front, Ontario has been leading the way, although the market of Canada’s largest province is not expected to get off the ground until midway through Q1 2022. Ontario is pursuing an open and competitive model that is allowing both industry heavyweights like DraftKings, BetMGM, PointsBet, and FanDuel and Canadian-made offerings to apply for licenses through the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

Most of these major players will be shut out of Alberta’s market at first.

Machado said that allowing private-sector operators into the market will bring the money spent in the grey market, estimated by the AGLC in 2020 to be $53 million annually, back to the province. However, Sports Handle reports that industry stakeholders in the province are concerned that the initial market will do little to wrestle back that business and revenue. Stakeholders have reportedly advocated for allowing somewhere in the ballpark of six to eight major operators instead of two.

Machado stressed that opening the market up to all vendors would see the process of rolling out sports betting in Alberta be “significantly delayed”, per Covers. AGLC’s acting VP of games and cannabis, Steve Lautischer, added that the AGLC is essentially looking for someone to help put in place the “betting engine” for retail and mobile wagering in the province.

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