If you’ve lived around here a while, you’ll likely have a reasonable idea of the laws in Alberta and in Canada itself around gambling. Casinos, racetracks, lotteries and bingo are all legal. Even online gambling is legal in Alberta, but it’s still something of a grey area since it’s only possible to do so on the sites of offshore online gambling operators.
Operators may be forgiven for this because the revenue they raise benefits local economies. The gambling industry has created a massive amount of jobs in Canada: more than 100,000 people are employed by it. Of course, this also generates sizable revenue for the Canadian powers that be, who then redistribute the revenue as they see fit.
Why the gambling industry could help the Albertan economy
There’s no reason why Alberta’s economy also couldn’t benefit from this. Take Ontario, which is leading the way, with more than 100,000 jobs — and this is just in direct jobs. The figure could be a whole lot higher if it were to include indirect jobs. Then there’s the actual revenue itself: in the 2017/2018 fiscal year, gambling generated a net revenue of just under $2.5 billion, according to Ontario Lottery and Gaming. Casinos are popular there: 38 million people walked through the doors of them in the province.
The money generated from casinos doesn’t just come from everything that the customers at spend at tables and on machines. Casinos create jobs beyond the gaming tables, such as jobs in restaurants and hotels. Then there’s the revenue that comes from non-gambling-related goods or services, including foods, drinks and non-gaming types of entertainment.
Indeed, the province’s economy has tried to make the most of the opportunities in the gambling industry. Following two years of decline in Alberta, revenues from gambling went back on the up in 2018 and grew by $4 million, totaling $1.736 billion. An increase in the use of video terminals was chiefly responsible and helped to push revenue up from the $1.732 billion in 2017. The revenues from the video lottery terminals were up by 1.9%, compared to growth by 0.4% of electronic bingo and a shrinkage of 0.6% from casino slots.
The last time the province’s gambling sector saw such progress was in 2015, when the sector generated $1.905 billion. As the economy experienced a downturn, so did gambling revenue, proving a link between gambling and the economy, namely that many people consider gambling as a leisure activity — and when they have money to spare, they spend it on leisure pursuits. ultimately, a look at gambling revenues can indicate the state of the wider economy.
Not that anyone is frowning upon gambling either. Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC), which overseas these industries in Alberta, has been recognized as one of the top employers in the province in 2019.
Online gambling is increasing
Brick-and-mortar casinos might be doing their bit for local economies, but it seems that there may be potential for Canadian online casinos to gain popularity in Alberta. Earlier this year, the AGLC started to turn its attention towards online gambling, and there is talk — or maybe hope — that the province may change its laws regarding online gambling. Alberta is one of the only provinces in Canada to not offer a regulated online gambling service.
Investigations have found that people in Alberta have quite the appetite for online gambling and choose to spend money on sites operated outside of the country. The commission estimates that people spend around $358 million per year on unregulated, unprotected sites. In view of this, they’re now looking at developers who could build a program that allows Albertans to gamble on their mobile devices and on computers. The idea is less about promoting gambling and more about allowing Albertans to enjoy gambling safely.
A selection of Alberta’s casinos
It could take some time for online casinos to become truly legal in Alberta, so if you fancy trying your luck at gambling, you can visit one of the land-based establishments in the province. Here are few big names you wish to visit:
Pure Casino Lethbridge
This is one of four casinos under the Pure brand. The casino boasts five poker tables, six Blackjack ones, a Roulette table and more. Anyone who doesn’t fancy a table game can amuse themselves at one of 427 slot machines or 28 video lottery terminals. Like many other casinos, Pure Casino Lethbridge offers entertainments such as live music, and there’s also a bar and grill.
Stoney Nakado Resort and Casino
If you’re looking for a gamble and a getaway, this is the resort for you. Stoney Nakado Resort & Casino is up in the Rocky Mountains and is just 35 minutes west of Calgary. The resort offers three-star accommodation and welcomes families. Breakfast is complimentary if you’re staying at the hotel. The casino itself features 250 slot machines, a poker room and off-track betting. There are also poker tournaments.
Jackpot Casino sits in downtown Red Deer and offers Blackjack, Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Bad Beat Baccarat and Roulette. In terms of non-table games, the casino has 349 slot machines and 15 video lottery terminals. There’s a high limit slot room or you can keep the risk low with penny slots (1,2,5,10 and 25 cents). The casino likes to keep up with the times and tries to provide the latest slots as much as possible.
It seems after a bit of a slowdown, gambling is alive and well again in Alberta. This is good news for the economy, which benefits from job creation not just directly in relation to the gambling-related services, but also in the hospitality sector, and from revenue generated by sales of food, drink and non-gambling-related products. Authorities have noticed online gambling is popular, too, and have opened their minds to its potential to help the economy. Citizens would be able to enjoy gambling safely and without any fear of whether the law could or come down on them for it. In the meantime, they can visit land-based casinos until the authorities establish a clear system and means of gambling online. The future looks bright for Alberta’s gambling industry and its economy.