Online gambling – at least, the government-run variety – is finally coming the Canadian province of Alberta.
This week, the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC) announced that it had signed a deal with NeoPollard Interactive (NPi) to ‘build and maintain’ the province’s long-delayed legal online gambling platform. The deal is for an initial seven-year term with “an extension of up to 12 years possible.”
NPi is a joint venture of lottery mainstays Pollard Banknote and NeoGames that currently powers the online offering of the state lotteries in Michigan, New Hampshire and Virginia. NPi GM Liz Siver said her company was “honored” to have been selected by AGLC and expressed confidence that the online partnership “will help generate incremental revenues to benefit all Albertans.”
Alberta has taken its time arriving at this moment, having been publicly mulling venturing into digital operations for the past five years without much in the way of tangible forward progress. This March, AGLC admitted that its online offering wouldn’t likely make its debut until “mid-2021.”
Alberta’s gambling monopoly has been beaten to the online punch by its counterparts in British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, Ontario and the four Atlantic provinces (leaving just Saskatchewan and the northern territories on the sidelines). By far the most successful of these operations in BC’s PlayNow.com, which generated revenue of nearly C$150m (US$110m) in its most recent fiscal year, and British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) insiders recently claimed that the online business has increased ‘significantly’ during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown of land-based casinos.
When Alberta’s online site does launch, AGLC says customers can expect “a suite of casino style games and live table games, full sportsbook, poker, bingo and lottery.” It remains to be seen whether that sportsbook product will be the current three-game-minimum parlay system of whether Canada’s federal government will finally authorize single-game wagering.
The provincial gambling monopolies in both British Columbia and Ontario have already come out in favor of the feds authorizing single-game wagering and Alberta is likely to join this chorus.
Alberta recently cleared its land-based casino and video lottery terminal operations to reopen following their mid-March pandemic shutdown, the only province to date that has deemed it safe to restart land-based gambling. Alberta’s government, which is heavily reliant on its equally struggling oil and gas sectors, reportedly lost around C$430m in gaming revenue during the three-month suspension.