Alberta, Canada Closing in on Expanded Sports Betting Launch, With Restrictions

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Alberta is nearing a market for commercial sports betting. There are strong indications, however, that regulators prefer a restricted-operator model to allow sports wagering in destinations facilities in the province.

Alberta Cautiously Approaches Sports Betting

Alberta is widely seen as a strong market for sports bettor’s dollars. It has two NHL clubs in Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers. It also has two Canadian Football League teams – the Calgary Stampeders and the Edmonton Elks. However, the provincial government could be considering allowing only two licensed sportsbook operators or platform providers.

An open-market structure, which is being proposed in Ontario, would be a big contrast to this Alberta model with limited operators. In Ontario, more than a dozen licensed sportsbooks will enter the private market. The Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission (AGLC) are expected to issue a Request For Proposals (RFP) in the coming week, which could clear the air on provincial expectations.

Open markets are favored by stakeholders in many industries. Alberta casinos have spent months studying the possibility of retail sports betting. They also considered mobile wagering. Even the top local professional sports teams are now actively seeking out new ways to monetize the activity.

Alberta’s Limited Market not Consumer-Friendly

Ontario is similar to leading U.S. state sports betting states, such as New Jersey or Colorado. It has created a model which favors consumers. DraftKings, BetMGM, and FanDuel are all expected to apply for a license, with hopes of going live in the first quarter of 2022. Other notable industry names, such as PointsBet in Toronto and theScore in Toronto, have expressed interest in the market, as well.

Some operators may be out of luck if Alberta opts for a limited-operator system. Alberta is not as open as Ontario in the eyes of many stakeholders, and limiting the province to only two sportsbooks could limit the revenue possibilities.

Alberta has close to 30 casinos, with the most prominent being Century Casino Edmonton and Grey Eagle Resort and Casino. Century Casinos in Colorado partners with Circa Sports and Tipico Sportsbook to offer online sports wagering. Most of Alberta’s casinos prefer to negotiate their own agreements with partners than to leave it up to the AGLC for a limit on the number of operators that can enter the marketplace.

Casinos Miffed, but Hold Onto Hope

The casinos were optimistic about the prospect of an open market following the release earlier this year by the AGLC of a nine-page Request For Information (RFI) for retail betting and mobile extensions. Perhaps now, not so much.

Stakeholders are worried that there won’t be more options available through the private sector to limit the influence of gray markets.

The casinos never imagined that the private market in Alberta would be as extensive as the one proposed for Ontario. However, stakeholders question the logic behind why regulators would shut down several of the top operators instead of allowing an even wider range of six to eight.

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