This week’s official launch of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp’s PlayOLG.ca online gambling site has politicians in Alberta pondering their own online future. Jody Korchinski, spokesperson for the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC), said this week that online gambling is “actively under review” at the provincial gaming monopoly.
Alberta and Saskatchewan are the only two remaining provinces (besides the thinly populated Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories) yet to embrace provincially run online gambling.
Korchinski told MetroNews the AGLC was “certainly aware that technology is changing” and that there are “expectations from consumers that [online gambling] be available for Alberta players.” Despite these expectations, Korchinski said “no final decisions have been made” as to when Albertans might see a homegrown online gambling option.
Whenever Alberta gets underway, let’s hope they avoid the serious security glitches that plagued the online gambling launch of PlayNow.com in neighboring British Columbia back in 2010. PlayOLG has had some comparatively minor glitches, particularly in the registration process. Some users reportedly got “not in Ontario” notifications, despite logging on from IP addresses within Ontario. Others complained about waiting up to an hour to speak with a human via live chat. OLG issued a statement to CityNews saying that demand was “very high” and that it “appreciate[s] everyone’s patience at this time.”
Meanwhile, the provincial Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is worried that PlayOLG will create more problem gamblers. Robert Murray, manager of education and community resources at the Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario, CAMH, told the Toronto Star that PlayOLG will draw in players who might have held off gambling online with internationally licensed online gambling operators. Murray says “for a segment of the population the convenience of gambling remotely is going to be attractive especially since it is government sponsored.”
Murray’s concerns aren’t supported by the data, at least, not long term. Studies have shown that problem gambling rates typically undergo a surge as a result of new gambling options, but that these spikes are short-lived and numbers fall back to previous levels as the novelty wears off. Other studies have shown that problem gambling rates have remained constant despite significant increases in both the availability and variety of gambling options.