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Poker PokerStars, BetMGM Begin Lobbying Efforts In Canadian Province
by Sean Chaffin  |  Published: Mar 05, 2024

Ontario has been one of the most successful regulated online markets since launching in April 2022. Now another Canadian province may be looking to get in the act.

Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction Minister Dale Nally issued a mandate in July 2023 with the goal of making the province a hub for online gaming and sports betting. Some major operators are hoping that includes poker, with PokerStars and BetMGM Poker reportedly hiring lobbyists in the province to make it happen.

$1 Million To Study Issue

The move comes as Alberta considers mimicking the regulation efforts seen in Ontario, which has seen several online poker operators set up. The province announced the government’s new budget last week and earmarked $1 million to study launching a regulated market.

The budget notes that those funds would “support a review of the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act and supporting Regulation, with the objectives of reducing the regulatory burden on business and finding ways to increase contributions to Alberta charities and community facilities.”

Nally’s recent mandate also noted that the government plans to launch a regulated market by “working with indigenous partners, finish developing and implementing Alberta’s online gaming strategy with a focus on responsible gaming and provincial and Indigenous revenue generation.”

Despite being Canada’s fourth-largest province, a population of about 4.3 million may make creating significant player pools for poker difficult. Smaller states in the U.S., such as Connecticut and West Virginia, have had difficulty seeing operators launch. But at least some initial interest may be positive.

Along with the two online poker companies, sports betting operators have also been lobbying for the changes in Alberta. Launching a shared liquidity online poker pool may be necessary for the province to find some real success on the poker front. That isn’t unprecedented in the country. The Canada Poker Network (CPN) also offers regulated online poker among three provinces.

The platform is part of the PlayNow online gaming platform, which is operated by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), and available in BC, Manitoba, and Québec. Those three provinces have a total population of around 15 million.

Ontario released third-quarter online gaming revenue (Oct. 1 to Dec. 31) totals for in February, offering a look at the success the province has found. Ontario saw a 21% increase over the second quarter for total wagers of $17.2 billion. That produced revenue of $658 million, a 22% increase from the second quarter.