AGLC Looks for Online Gaming Operators Again

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Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) recently began looking into regulated online gaming for the province, according to a report from CBC. The provincial gaming regulator put out feelers early in 2019 for an operator to offer the service, and according to the AGLC's Chara Goodings, several companies have already expressed interest.

While many Albertans already play online in a variety of ways, from poker sites like PokerStars and 888poker, or sports betting sites like DraftKings, Alberta is one of only two provinces in Canada not to offer some form of regulated online gaming. If the AGLC request for proposals goes forward and a regulated site is approved, that would leave only Saskatchewan without some form of provincially regulated gaming.

This isn't the first time the AGLC has looked at licensing an online gaming option, and the timing of the latest call is familiar. In 2015, just months before the provincial election, the former Progressive Conservative government announced a very similar call for proposals for online gaming. Once the new NDP government took power after the election, the plans were put on hold.

PokerNews Canada's Lane Anderson published an open letter to Alberta's Minister of Finance, Joe Ceci, a few months later laying out the positives of a provincially regulated site, but the letter received in response indicated it wasn't an issue the new government was currently exploring.

At least, not until the dawn of 2019 with another election looming by the end of spring. Once again, in the run-up to an election, regulated online gaming is being thrown into the basket of goodies. Whether or not this is a serious consideration or simply something to sweeten electioneering for certain constituencies remains to be seen, but a change of government would almost certainly reboot the process at best, or kill it at worst.

Alberta is largely behind the curve when it comes to online gaming. BC and Manitoba offer online gaming through PlayNow, while in Quebec it's EspaceJeux. Ontario residents can play at PlayOLG. But, to date, Albertans have had to go offshore for their gaming fix.

There are advantages to a regulated site. Offshore gaming sites are able to skirt AGLC charity and tax rules, and generally aren't subject to the same responsible gaming standards. Additionally, a provincially regulated site can be an excellent source of provincial revenue that simply can't be tapped with offshore sites.

Critics question whether the revenue stream generated by an online gaming site might be an encouragement for online gambling, fueling problem gambling and addiction. Additionally, they cite the greater possibility of underage gambling online. While problem gambling, or gambling by minors, are serious problems, the existence of unregulated sites means those problems already exist, in forms outside the regulatory power of the Alberta government. A regulated gaming solution would at least go some way to addressing many of those concerns.

Whether or not Alberta is set to adopt a regulated online gaming solution is still an open question. The government has put out calls for proposals before, and they've done so in very similar circumstances. The success of this version of the idea almost certainly rests on the outcome of the coming election, so stay tuned.

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