Alberta isn’t ready yet for online gambling, despite the province’s revenue crunch. That’s according to Finance Minister Joe Ceci.
In an interview with CBC News, the finance minister said he knows people are already gambling online. However, Ceci believes the online gambling’s public risks still outweigh the financial benefits it will give the province.
“I think we need to see the positives and negatives of what that might mean for Albertans before I deal with that policy issue. So, still under review,” Ceci said, according to the new outlet.
Early this year, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission opened a tender for online gaming companies that want to set up shop in the province. Alberta is one of the last two Canadian provinces not yet offering online gambling services through its provincial gambling monopoly, the other being Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan, where, incidentally, a certain Calvin Ayre was born, has flirted with the idea back in 2014, courtesy of the Geobet-powered NorthernBearCasino.com.
Alberta is hoping to capture at least some of the estimated $150m its residents spend with internationally licensed online gambling sites. Ceci’s predecessor, former Finance Minister Robin Campbell, said part of the proceeds would go to rural charities, which currently receive around $20,000 from operations at rural casinos, compared to $80,000 for charities working in city casinos.
Ceci is still on the fence with the online gambling proposal.
“I think there’s a downside potentially as well, and so I fully understand what those implications are. I’m not signed up,” the finance minister told CBC News.
Alberta’s neighbors are already enjoying their online gambling gains. In British Columbia, e-gaming’s revenue rose from $18.1 million in 2013-2014 fiscal year to $109.1 million in 2014-2015. Ontario—whose Ontario Lottery Corporation launched an online gaming site in January—expects to rake in an additional $375 million in profits over the next five years.