Online Gambling in Alberta: Laws and Regulations
The relationship between the largest prairie province in Canada (population-wise) and gambling has been one of love and hate over the long history of gambling in Alberta. Ever since the European settlers brought dice, card, and other games to the continent in the 1700s, and up to current times, gambling in all its forms has been widely practiced.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, most forms of gambling were deemed illegal by Canada’s Criminal Code. Between 1910 and 1920, the same Criminal Code granted permission for pari-mutuel betting on horse and dog racing, along with charitable raffles, bingo, and other games. This had set the foundation for the later revival of gambling which came with the reformed 1970 Criminal Code. This Code allowed all provinces to decide whether or not they want to capitalize on the revenue possibilities of legal gambling and betting by legalizing them.
Luckily, Alberta acted on the proposed ‘lottery schemes’ and set out to establish first permanent casinos, bingo halls, and the first provincial lottery organized by the Alberta Division of Western Canada Lottery Foundation.
Now, under the jurisdiction of Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) agency, licensed charitable organizations are allowed to operate casinos, racetracks, bingo halls, and offer slots, table casino games, lotteries, raffles, and many other games.
In this article, we continue to explore the gaming options in Alberta, the gambling laws, and particularly the position of online gambling and its legality.
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What Forms of Gambling Are Allowed Under Alberta Laws?
Alberta employs what is known as the ‘charitable gaming model’. This gaming model allows licensed charitable groups and organizations to host and oversee certain forms of non-electronic gambling, such as raffles, pull-tabs, casino table games, and others. The only way these charitable organizations and religious groups could host games is by giving the proceedings to those in need and supporting a variety of social groups.
In a 2009 annual report by the AGLC we could see that some 11,000 organizations benefited from charitable gaming. Also, between 2017 and 2018, the philanthropic organizations earned $331 million to support different programs and services for Albertans, and according to the AGLC, 72% of that money came by way of gaming.
AGLC directly oversees the operation of all legalized forms of gambling. When it comes to casino games, you can explore the slot games, VLTs, roulette, blackjack, poker, baccarat, red dog, craps, sic bo, and pai gow tiles. The VLT games and slots are electronic gaming machines, which, according to Alberta’s regulations, need to offer a 92% payout rate.
Across Alberta, you can find 24 casinos and 4 racetracks where tens of thousands of VLTs, slots, and casino table games can be played. Also, you can enjoy different lottery games organized by Western Canada Lottery Corporation, as well as bingo games and raffles in bingo halls. AGCL gives Class A and Class B licenses to 22 bingo halls facilities across Alberta that can host community bingo events that occur three or fewer days per week.
Moreover, sports betting is also a viable and legal option. It is conducted solely through Western Canada Lottery Corporation operated Sports Select that stands for a group of sports betting games, or the Pari Sportif program.
Canadian Gambling Laws — Is Gambling Online Allowed in Alberta and Can Albertans Legally Play in Offshore Casinos?
When it comes to online gambling, the situation is not that clear cut. Under the Canadian Criminal Code and Alberta’s Gaming, Liqueur, and Cannabis Act, online gambling is not considered allowed. However, no rules or specific regulations ban players from accessing offshore gaming sites.
It is AGCL’s estimate that Albertans spend more than $350 million every year on unregulated gambling websites, which is why they put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to an online gaming contractor that will help them tap into that vast market.
As for the offshore gaming sites, the Canadian Federal Law clearly states that no online casino or betting operator is allowed to establish and run gaming businesses from within Canadian borders unless otherwise permitted by individual provinces.
The exception to this rule comes in the form of the Kahnawake Gaming Law first enacted by the Kahnawake Gambling Commission in 1999. This regulation allows tribal casinos to license and regulate land-based and online casinos operating from the Mohawk land in Canada. These online casinos are indeed running from Canadian soil, but technically, their jurisdiction belongs to the Kahnawake Gambling Commission. However, Albertans and Canadians from all over the country can access them freely.
Another in the series of rules states that no offshore online casino operator and betting site is allowed to advertise their services to Canadians. So, the law prohibits staging online games from Canada, but it does not prevent Albertans or Canadians from other provinces to access offshore sites. Also, foreign sites can accept deposits from Albertans without any fear of legal persecution.
What to Look For When Choosing an Offshore Online Casino?
Now when you know that you can access offshore online casinos from Alberta, the only thing left is choosing the right one. Mind you — it may be more complicated than it seems. They all offer thousands of different casino games, enticing bonuses, and various payment methods. So, this is why we have come up with a couple of useful points for you to consider before making your choice.
- Fairness and Security: One of the first things to ask yourself is: Is that offshore casino licensed, fair and secure? There are various globally acclaimed licensing jurisdictions, like the United Kingdom Gambling Commission, Malta Gambling Authority, and the Alderney Gambling Control Commission that are highly reputable and respected in the gaming world. If the casino holds one of these licences or even all of them, you are at the right place. These licenses are obtained only after detailed examinations of all games and aspects of a casino. Moreover, if an independent auditing agency, like eCOGRA or iTech Labs, has tested the RNG software and given its seal of approval, you can have peace of mind knowing the games are fair and safe.
- Bonuses and Promotions: Making the best offshore online casino starts by getting hold of some lucrative welcome bonuses and promotions. Most of them offer these bonuses, as well as reload, cashback, and other types, so make sure to compare them and see which ones and from which casinos suit you best.
- Payment Options: Moving the funds to and fro casino accounts is essential. If an offshore casino offers payment methods widely used in Alberta and Canada, like Interac, ecoPayz, iDebit/Instadebit, that might be an excellent signal to play at that casino; in that way, you can make payments hassle-free and play in your local currency.
Gaming in Alberta is regulated by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) which issues licenses and oversees all casino gaming, lotteries, off-track betting and bingo gaming.
Sports betting is allowed in Alberta only in forms of Sports Select tickets.
Only professional gamblers and poker players are required to pay taxes on online winnings.
Albertans are welcomed at most offshore casinos. However, it would be prudent to check the restricted countries list first, just to make sure.
Players must be over 18 to play at land-based casinos, bingo halls, and racetracks.