AGLC emerges victorious from PlayAlberta court case

The Tsuut’ina Nation and Stoney Nakoda First Nation have failed in their appeal

A challenge by Tssut’ina Gaming and others over the validity of PlayAlberta – the online gambling site of Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) – has been dismissed in court.

As reported by the Calgary Herald, the issue centred over whether the commission had the statutory authority under the gaming act to operate an online casino accessible by desktop and mobile devices throughout the province.

The Tsuut’ina Nation and Stoney Nakoda First Nation – which have both operated casinos in the province – first took action in April 2021, arguing the site constituted an “unauthorized entry” into Alberta’s casino and gaming market by the regulator and provincial government.

“By entering online gaming the government is taking away charity dollars,” Tsuut’ina Chief Roy Whitney said in April 2021. “These charity dollars are used to support our health, education, housing and social programs.”

Alberta’s Criminal Code does state that all lotteries and games of chance are illegal, but there are exceptions to the rule which include provincial governments conducting and managing authorized lottery schemes.

A three-member Alberta Court of Appeal panel has now ruled in favour of the AGLC and its site that launched in 2020.

The appeal judges stated in their verdict that the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act enables the commission to conduct and manage provincial lotteries on behalf of the Government of Alberta.

“In summary, a province is entitled to conduct and manage a provincially authorized lottery scheme. Such a scheme is authorized in Alberta as a ‘provincial lottery’.

“This is different [from] a lottery scheme for which a non-governmental entity is authorized by a gaming licence to operate a ‘gaming activity’ on licenced premises, or licenced for on-site VLTs in authorized establishments.

“The purpose of the provincial government’s ‘provincial lottery’ is to raise funds for general revenue.”

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