The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) oversees and regulates the gambling sector in Alberta.
The province has consistently relied on gambling-related revenue to help finance its operations, with a significant portion of its overall revenue coming from gambling.
Total revenue for gambling-related activities in Alberta at the end of its latest financial year in March 2017 was $1.85 billion.
Alberta has a long relationship with gambling. The province’s first casino opened its doors in 1967 and operated each year at the Edmonton fair. The first permanent casinos launched in 1980 in Calgary, closely followed by a casino on the outskirts of Edmonton the following year. Today, there are 28 casinos scattered across the province.
Table games (roulette, baccarat, blackjack, etc.), poker, slot machines, and video lottery terminals (VLTs) are all allowed in Alberta. Table games, poker, and slots can only be found in racinos and charitable casinos.
VLTs are mostly offered by smaller venues. Only 6,000 VLTs are allowed to operate at any given time in Alberta, excluding those located at charitable casinos. This rule was implemented in 1994.The
number of venues allowed to host VLTs has been on the decline since a 2001 order by the AGLC, which was part of the Gaming Licensing Policy Review in the province. At the same time, VLT Gaming Entertainment Rooms (VGERs) were created. VGERs allow establishments to offer 15 to 30 VLTs while also subjecting them to higher security and quality standards.
The requirements are not as strict for places like lounges, but they are only allowed to host a maximum of 10 VLTs.
Casinos must go through three different steps if they want to expand their offering, carry out extensive renovations, or relocate their casino to a different area.
Slots have been allowed in these casinos since 1996 and are also permitted at racing entertainment centers. Fifteen percent of slot revenue is claimed by casino operators to ensure a high-quality service and cover any space costs.
A further 15% goes to the charities involved with these casinos, and the remaining 70% is awarded to the Alberta Lottery Fund. The breakdown is different for slots located at racing centers – operators receive 15%, and the remaining 85% is claimed by the Alberta Lottery Fund, which uses the money to support local communities and non-profits. In the latest financial year, $1.44bn went to this fund.
The AGLC has been planning to develop an online gaming platform that would be operated by the state. Each year, Alberta residents spend large sums of money on offshore gambling platforms – money that could be contributed to the state coffers.
Alberta is home to several tribal casinos – a result of the implementation of the First Nations Gaming Policy in 2001 that allows the tribe to operate gaming facilities on its reserves.
The first tribal casino to open in Alberta was the River Cree Resort and Casino in 2006, and it is still up and running along with four other tribal casinos. River Cree is also the largest casino in the province, with 50 tables and over 1,000 slot machines.
The Western Canada Lottery Corporation is in charge of sports betting in Alberta – its offering is called Sport Select, and it allows wagers on:
- Canadian and American pro football
- American college football
- American college basketball
- North American soccer
- European soccer
Point spreads, pools, and Proline options are available.
Proline is the most played option. You need to make at least three and a maximum of six selections to make up this parlay bet. You must get each of the outcomes correct to win. There are five different outcomes – H+, H, T, V, V+.
V+ means the visitors are to win by at least two points, V means the visitors are to win by at least one point, and T stands for a tie after five minutes of overtime.
You can also make your wager in the form of an over/under bet. NHL games are the most popular form of Proline betting. Most people place bets at select retail outlets, such as local convenience stores.
The point spread option is similar to Proline, but there are no odds for each individual result. Instead, you choose one of the teams participating in the game. You can make from two up to a dozen selections in any bet.
Finally, of the three options available, pools option feature the highest potential payouts. You select a winner without any associated odds or point spreads. This is similar to a progressive jackpot where a portion of the ticket price is entered into a pool, and whoever makes the highest number of correct selections wins the entire pot.
Currently, no online sports betting products are offered in Alberta. The government has been talking about creating a state-run platform for years, but no definitive date has been set for this project.
Sports bets can only be placed at retail outlets. Many sports bettors use offshore online sportsbooks to get their fix as legally, this is a gray area. Offshore operators are licensed somewhere else in the world, and players are not prosecuted for using these platforms.
Alberta is home to numerous successful sports teams, such as the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames. As a result of their success, interest in sports betting is constantly on the rise.
While all other forms of gambling are regulated on a provincial level, horse racing is still governed by a federal agency – the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency. This is due to section 204 of the Criminal Code, which states that pari-mutuel gambling is not considered to be a form of illegal betting.
Pari-mutuel wagering is allowed in Alberta, and it is made up of simulcasting and horse race betting. Some racetracks and entertainment centers are allowed to host slot machines and VLTs, which are significant drivers of revenue, especially as the horse racing scene had been struggling lately.
There are currently 18 poker rooms located in Alberta. The most significant ones are located in Red Deer, Edmonton, and Calgary.
These poker rooms regularly hold cash games and tournaments all year. Online poker is also a popular pursuit in Alberta, but there is no Canada-based online poker platform in operation, so people must use offshore operators.
Lottery schemes have been allowed in Alberta since 1969 when the country’s Criminal Code was changed to allow the formation of these schemes. The AGLC is in charge of regulating lotteries in the province, and tickets can be purchased at over 2,200 retail locations.
Since 1974, the Alberta lottery has been part of the Western Canada Lottery Corporation, which was originally made up of Alberta, British Columbia, and Manitoba. These days, the corporation includes Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, the Yukon Territory, the Nunavut Territory, and the Northwest Territories.
Claiming a lottery prize depends on the size of your winnings
If you win $100 or less, you can pick up your money at lottery ticket retailer. If the prize is worth between $101 and $1,000, some lottery ticket retailers may award you the money, but they are not obligated to. Other options include mailing your ticket to the WCL or visiting one of the Alberta prize payout offices. If you win between $1,001 and $9,999, you can claim your winnings by mail or in person. For any prizes worth more than $10,000, in-person pickup is the only option.
There is currently no way to purchase lottery tickets online in Alberta.
There are several bingo halls situated in Alberta.
A Class A or Class B bingo facility license from the AGLC is needed for any party looking to offer these services. Class A bingo licenses cover charitable groups, whereas Class B licenses are for corporations and partnerships. Licenses need to be renewed every two years.
Alberta is a Canadian province that places a strong emphasis on its gambling sector and tends to be progressive with gambling expansion laws.
The province is lagging behind some of the others due to the absence of an online gambling platform, but this shortcoming should be addressed soon.
As Alberta relies heavily on gambling-related revenues, it is expected to continue to support the sector going forward.