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Alberta Passes New Bill, Could Launch Ontario-Like iGaming Model In 2025

PLAY CANADA (June 4, 2024) Alberta is one step closer to implementing an Ontario-like iGaming system after passing of one crucial piece of legislation.

In late May, Alberta lawmakers passed Bill 16, the Red Tape Reduction Statutes Amendment Act. The bill, which became law through Royal Assent shortly after, features several amendments to existing Alberta gambling laws.

One of the revisions, in particular, will allow the provincial government to “conduct and manage” gambling activities alongside Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis.

With it, comes the removal of a significant hurdle in the the Alberta online gambling expansion process.

Bill 16 moves Alberta iGaming structure away from traditional monopoly

As a result of Bill 16, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis, which operates PlayAlberta online casino and sportsbook, will no longer serve as the sole entity responsible for “conducting and managing” Alberta’s gambling activities on the government’s behalf.

Instead, the provincial government now has the green-light to allow chosen and licensed third-party operators to offer their online wagering products in Alberta.

Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction minister Dale Nally said during a press conference on April 8 that Bill 16 would clarify his ministry’s authority to make policy decisions connected to the alcohol and gambling sectors when there is a “direct impact” on government revenues.

Nally later doubled down on his ministry’s position: “We would also further clarify that government as well as Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis has the authority to conduct and manage gaming activities in the province.”

As such, the entities may now share a similar dynamic to that of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and its subsidiary iGaming Ontario.

The latter is responsible for granting third-party operators access to the Ontario online casino, sports betting, and pokermarkets.

Nally making legitimate progress with iGaming framework

The last 11-plus months have been a whirlwind for Nally and Alberta’s evolving iGaming prospects.

Things began to take off last July when Alberta Premier Danielle Smith tasked Nally with finalizing Alberta’s online gambling strategy. The first item on the 2023 Alberta mandate letter read:

“Working with Indigenous partners, finish developing and implementing Alberta’s online gaming strategy with a focus on responsible gaming and provincial and Indigenous revenue generation.”

PlayCanada later confirmed through a quote from Nally’s office that he was working on an open, regulated iGaming market similar to Ontario’s following his appearance at February’s ICE Conference in London.

One month later, the province designated $1 million towards a review of its online gambling structure.

The momentum continued into the recent SBC Summit North America in New Jersey. Here, Bruce Caughill, managing director for Canada at Rush Street Interactive, offered another key piece of information.

According to Caughill, indications are that Alberta is “simply going to white label the Ontario licensing regime.”

If that’s the case, he continued, the hope is it will ease the transition for operators already in Ontario.

2025 launch within realm of possibilities for Alberta

While nothing is set in stone, it appears Alberta’s new online gambling framework is on track for 2025. Other obstacles, such as ensuring the strategy makes sense and serves the interests of all Albertans, do remain.

However, both industry players and Nally’s office view the Western Canadian region as an ideal iGaming destination.

“Alberta can be a leading hub for iGaming, with a strong emphasis on openness and a free market,” the minister’s office told PlayCanada in February.“We have low corporate taxes, streamlined regulations and high disposable incomes. These conditions will allow us to establish ourselves as a premier destination for the iGaming industry.”

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