Alberta gaming regulators are accepting bids from perspective operators that want to be licensed in the province to offer retail and online sports betting.
Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) executives confirmed Friday that they will be limiting the province’s market to two private sportsbook operators, although more operators may be licensed in the future.
Kandice Machado, president and CEO of AGLC, said initially limiting the market to two vendors will allow for a competitive landscape while continuing the expansion of a safe and regulated sports-betting market.
“By opening it up to two companies now, the AGLC is able to bring sports betting to Alberta earlier in 2022,” Machado said. “If AGLC were to open the market to all vendors, the process to bring the service to [market] would be significantly delayed.”
“The steps we are taking give us the opportunity to work out potential problems with two vendors and monitor the challenges other jurisdictions are currently facing before we consider next steps,” Machado told reporters during a press conference on Friday.
Unlike Alberta, Ontario will permit an unlimited number of private online sportsbook operators to compete in an open market in the province. Sports betting and online casino gaming in Ontario was expected to launch this month but that has been delayed as regulators are still working to register and contract with operators.
Paul Burns, CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, told attendees last month at SBC Summit North America in New Jersey that the launch is now expected sometime in the first quarter of 2022.
The request for proposals (RFP) process in Alberta will close on January 31, 2022. The AGLC expects to finalize the contracts by July 11, 2022, according to the RFP.
The term of the contract is for eight years, with an option for the AGLC to extend the agreement for both companies for an additional 12 months each.
Each of the companies chosen will pay the AGLC an annual licensing fee of $250,000.
According to the 68-page RFP, the operators will also need a security instrument, either a letter of credit or bond, for the amount of $5m guaranteeing that the successful candidate will deliver the services.
AGLC acting vice president, gaming and cannabis Steve Lautischer said he wants to have sports betting up and running by the end of 2022. Lautischer said the agency is looking for retail and online sports-betting options with mobile extensions.
“This will allow players to move seamlessly between retail at casinos and wherever they take their phones through Alberta,” he said.
With 28 casinos and racing entertainment centers in the province, Lautischer said there is a significant opportunity to modernize Alberta’s sports gambling industry.
In addition to the existing market, he said sportsbooks at venues used by the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, as well as stadiums used by the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Elks, could be set up.
Currently, residents can wager on sporting events online using AGLC's PlayAlberta platform, which was expanded on September 1 to include sports betting in addition to casino and lottery games, after the federal government enacted legislation to allow single-game wagering throughout Canada.
The only legal sports betting currently being offered in Canada is through provincial lotteries.
“Allowing private sector operators into the Alberta market ensures the dollars that may have been heading to the grey market will come back to our province,” Machado said.
Machado said the recent passage of C-218, the federal single-event wagering bill, has provided a tremendous opportunity to modernize gaming throughout Alberta.
Research conducted in 2020 estimated the grey market in Canada was worth C$14.5bn annually, with Alberta’s portion at C$1.85bn. Lautischer said that with the hold estimated at 6 percent that “works out to be a market of about C$111m within the province” in terms of annual gross revenue.
Lautischer said the ALGC’s plan was to establish a sports-betting market at the retail level and then extend out to mobile. He told reporters that in-person registration of wagering accounts would be initially required before eventually moving to remote registration.
“Within the RFPs we are certainly seeking out the advice of proponents to guide us on that but certainly we believe that there would be a requirement for an in-person sign-up more than likely on day one,” Lautischer said.
“At some point the account could be managed completely through the app in the future,” he added.