Alberta begins consultation process on possible iGaming revisions

H2 Gambling Capital finds PlayAlberta captures 45% of market

More than half of the overall online gaming market in Alberta is still held by unregulated sites, according to estimates from market data firm H2 Gambling Capital, illustrating the potential opportunity a regulated commercial market could bring.

AGLC noted its Play Alberta site has captured over 45% of the digital gambling market over not quite four years of operation.

The platform has more than 313,000 registered users at the last count. AGLC Vice President of iGaming Dan Keene told Canadian Gaming Business on Tuesday that the commission estimates that approximately 9% of Alberta’s legal age population has a registered account on, which he calls “pretty astronomical when you’re not at your fourth anniversary yet.”

The AGLC also estimates that the site took $5.36 billion in total bets over the course of the 12 months ending March 31. Keene said the total revenue contribution to Alberta’s general revenue fund is projected to be $234 million for the last fiscal year, up from $179 million for the year ending March 2023.

While Play Alberta is growing, that 45% figure means that over half of online gaming activity is still happening on unregulated sites. It also means that more than half of online gaming is done without AGLC or governmental oversight, potentially leaving players exposed on platforms that do not have strictly regulated privacy or player protection protocols.

Canadian Gaming Association President and CEO Paul Burns told attendees at the SBC Summit North America last month that Alberta has had some of the highest per-capita spending on gambling in Canada for many years.

It seems that many of those dollars continue to go out of the province’s regulatory parameters.

“Numerous gaming providers have existed in Alberta for decades,” acknowledged Keene. “The goal has always been to bring safe and regulated options and capture that market share. But the reality is that still approximately 50-55% of that money is not being captured, not within Alberta. We want to have the market available in a safe way to Albertans, to be able to say these are sites that have gone through due diligence and are adhering to standards and inspire confidence in players. Right now, we don’t have that.”

AGLC supports regulated market

That’s where Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction Dale Nally comes in.

Premier Danielle Smith has mandated Nally review the province’s gaming options.

Last month, the Alberta legislature passed Bill 16, which recognises that the provincial government has the authority to conduct and manage gaming in the province separately and distinctly from AGLC. In essence, the Red Tape Reduction Statutes Amendment Act legally allows the government to choose to allow commercial online gaming operators to enter the market to compete with AGLC.

Nally has openly referenced that the province will look towards the open-license Ontario market for inspiration as it mulls over its own iGaming expansion. As Nally’s new press secretary Brandon Aboultaif told Canadian Gaming Business on Tuesday:

“Alberta’s gaming market is unique because our province is unique. We have the youngest population, the highest incomes, and the best taxation system in Canada. We have passionate sports fans who put their enthusiasm into supporting their favourite teams through purchase of game tickets, merchandise, and 50/50 draws.”

In terms of AGLC’s perspective on potential expansion, Keene stressed that the commission is in full support of exploring other models for Alberta gaming.

“We know there’s a lot of competitors out there and likely to be more in the future,” added Keene. “We fully embrace what the minister is doing and we’re fully supportive of what’s been put forward in that mandate.

“Albertans are already participating, the market is already mature. Let’s regulate and provide those safe tools and put measures and compliance in place to get some rigour behind it and capture those revenues for the province. It’s about continuing to bring a responsible product to Albertans in a way that they feel is competitive and interesting for them.”

Alberta begins promised consultations with First Nations

Aboultaif confirmed to Canadian Gaming Business on Tuesday that the consultations with First Nations representatives were promised earlier this spring have begun. Nally’s office met with representatives from Treaty 6, 7, and 8 First Nations and will continue to meet other reps through the summer to “hear their perspectives on the potential implications and opportunities presented by an expanded gaming model in Alberta.”

That has been a key imperative for Nally’s mandate. Keene stressed that consultation with and “strong consideration of” the implications of a regulated market on First Nations populations and gaming operations is a vital piece of the puzzle, without which the picture would not and could not be complete.

As Nally’s office had told Canadian Gaming Business in late April, government officials will also chat with traditional casino operators and Racing Entertainment Centre operators this summer.

You might also like