Will Alberta Finally act On Online Gambling?

It appears that Alberta has renewed its interest in regulated online gambling and may become the next Canadian province to embrace this activity. Seven provinces of Canada now offer online gambling through government controlled agencies. Alberta and Saskatchewan are the only two remaining major provinces that do not offer provincially run online gambling, besides the thinly populated Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories.

The trigger was the launch of Ontario's regulated online gambling website PlayOLG.ca. The local media approached the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC), which would be the nodal authority for this endeavor. Jody Korchinski, a spokesperson for AGLC, stated that the commission was actively examining the possibility of creating an online gaming portal in Alberta. Korchinski told MetroNews the AGLC was aware that technology is changing and that there are expectations from consumers that online gambling should be made available for Alberta players. However she did not provide details on what progress has been made and when Alberta residents can expect to gamble online. Korchinski did indicate that a final decision had not been made in this regard.

One implication of changing technology is that Alberta residents can expect fewer teething problems as and when their online casino web site goes live. There were serious security glitches during the launch of the online gambling web site PlayNow.com of the neighboring province of British Columbia in 2010. PlayOLG of Ontario had reported comparatively minor glitches. These happened in the registration process. Some users received “not in Ontario” notifications, even though they logged on from IP addresses within Ontario. Other users complained about waiting up to an hour to speak with a human via live chat. OLG issued a statement to CityNews stating that these problems arose because of a very high demand and requested players to be patient.

Alberta has been tracking the progress of regulated online gambling in Canada since 2010. The main incentive has been the revenue that the activity generates for the province. But then there was apprehension that online gambling would eat into the market share of casinos and lotteries and that revenues from those sources would fall.

Garry Smith, research co-ordinator for the Alberta Gambling Research Institute at the University of Alberta, had pointed out the potential for an increase in problem gambling through increased involvement of the youth. It was such hurdles that have led Alberta to adopt a wait and watch approach. May be the time has come to act.

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