Alberta Passes Bill Opening Potential Door for Gambling Expansion

In a significant development for the gaming landscape in Alberta, the legislature of the province has passed Bill 16, officially titled the Red Tape Reduction Statutes Amendment Act. 

This bill introduces amendments to the provincial Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act, effectively authorizing the provincial government to conduct and manage gaming alongside Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC). 

Legislative Shift and Its Implications

The approval of Bill 16 is a pivotal shift in Alberta’s approach to gaming management. The bill was passed through a vote and subsequently received Royal Assent, which signifies its final approval within the Alberta legislature. 

According to Nicky Gocuan, the press secretary for Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction Minister Dale Nally, the specific amendments that clarify ministerial authority over gaming became effective immediately with Royal Assent. 

Government’s Strategy and Consultation Process

Premier Danielle Smith has tasked Dale Nally with the responsibility of exploring new avenues for online gaming and sports betting within the province. Bill 16 substantiates the government’s authority to make strategic decisions concerning the management and expansion of  Alberta’s gaming market.

Moving forward, the provincial government plans to engage in a comprehensive consultation process with various stakeholders. This engagement aims to gather feedback and insights on the development of a more open and regulated online gaming market.

“We look forward to meeting soon and gathering their feedback on iGaming,” said Gocuan, emphasizing the importance of inclusive policy development. This process will also involve examining best practices from other jurisdictions, such as Ontario, to ensure that Alberta’s online casino strategy is both effective and beneficial for all Albertans.

Stakeholder Engagement and Market Potential

The legislative changes come during an ongoing review of the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act by the provincial government. This review was backed by a $1 million allocation in the provincial budget to evaluate the feasibility of revamping the act to facilitate an expanded online gaming market. 

In line with this effort, Nally’s office has committed to engaging not only with First Nations but also with casino and racetrack operators and other relevant stakeholders throughout the year.

At the recent SBC Summit North America, Bruce Caughill, Managing Director of Canada for Rush Street Interactive, suggested that Alberta might establish a separate conduct-and-manage agency to oversee iGaming, similar to Ontario’s iGaming Ontario government agency. 

Caughill indicated that a 2025 launch for Alberta’s expanded gaming market is a plausible goal, given the government’s strong interest in expediting the process.

“There’s a desire in the Alberta government to make this happen yesterday,” Caughill stated at the Summit, acknowledging that although there is substantial enthusiasm, there remains considerable work to be done.

In February, Dale Nally highlighted Alberta’s unique advantages, including its population size, low corporate taxes, and high disposable incomes, which collectively make it an attractive hub for iGaming. 

However, Nally’s office has reiterated that Alberta’s iGaming strategy must be tailored to suit the province’s distinctive gaming market and align with the interests of all Albertans.

Paul Burns, President of the Canadian Gaming Association, echoed these sentiments at the SBC Summit. He noted that Alberta has historically exhibited some of the highest per-capita spending on gambling in Canada. 

Any new operators entering the province would be stepping into a vibrant and lucrative gaming marketplace, potentially intensifying competition and enhancing the overall gaming experience for consumers.

Looking Ahead

As Alberta navigates through this transformative period, the successful implementation of Bill 16 and the subsequent expansion of the gaming market could herald a new era for the province’s gaming industry. 

The government’s commitment to inclusive consultation and strategic planning aims to ensure that this growth is both sustainable and beneficial for all stakeholders involved.