Alberta Could Launch Online Gaming Model In 2025, Officials Say

May 10, 2024
Multiple Canadian gaming industry officials have said that Alberta could launch a competitive online gaming market as early as 2025 and that provincial government officials remain motivated to do so. 

Multiple Canadian gaming industry officials have said that Alberta could launch a competitive online gaming market as early as 2025 and that provincial government officials remain motivated to do so.

During a panel at the SBC Summit North America on Thursday (May 9), Paul Burns, CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, and Bruce Caughill, managing director overseeing Canada for Rush Street Interactive (RSI), said they believe next year is a realistic timeline given the province’s desire to join Ontario with a competitive regulated market.

“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, it takes some time,” Caughill said.

“Alberta’s had some of the highest per capita spend for gambling in the country for many years, actually [all of] western Canada has had that, it used to go lower as you would come east,” Burns said. “So it is a very robust gaming marketplace, already.”

Caughill highlighted two encouraging signs that the government continues to move quickly, the first being that he expects legislation to be approved by the province’s Legislative Assembly “shortly” that would permit the government to create a separate “conduct-and-manage” entity for online gaming, similar to the function that iGaming Ontario serves. 

Canadian federal law requires provincial governments to “conduct and manage” all forms of gambling in the country, which Ontario complied with by creating a new entity under the umbrella of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). Under the unique setup, the AGCO regulates gaming while the sister organization, iGO, is legally responsible for gaming activities. 

In addition, Caughill, who helped launch online gaming in Ontario as the former chief legal officer of the AGCO before joining RSI, said Alberta may go a step further in borrowing from the Ontario model.

“There seems to be every indication they’re going to simply white label the Ontario licensing regime,” Caughill said. “There’s nothing specific, but that’s sort of the hope that you can transition right into that model if you’re already in Ontario.”

Brent McCurdy, chief legal officer for the AGCO, said the regulator would be open to working with their Albertan colleagues to create more harmonization if that is the direction the province elects to go.

“When we put together our regulatory framework, we looked, we borrowed, and stole shamelessly from the UK and areas of the US and picked what we thought was the best of all worlds,” he said. “We’re always looking to update to make sure that they’re effective and targeted, and we’re always happy to have a conversation with those doing the same thing.”

Ontario regulators permitted operators who were already offering online gaming in the province when it was considered a grey market to not only become regulated, but continue operating as grey market operators while they transitioned into the regulated space as long as they did so within a few months of the market’s April 2022 launch.

“The thing about the Ontario model is I found it to be very sober-minded, very realistic about what you can do as a province, and as Canada too,” said Geoff Zochodne, a journalist for Covers. “You probably weren’t going to see a detachment of Mounties sent to some tropical island to start kicking on doors.

“So you have an approach where you can, for lack of a better phrase, catch more flies with honey and bring them in and take some of these operators at their words when they say we’re willing to be regulated if you have some sort of framework that can accommodate them, and so that bluff was called and operators did sign up.”

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