Alberta Finally Chooses Online Gambling Platform Provider

One and a half years ago, the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission revealed its intention to offer online gambling. The AGLC wanted to offer online poker, casino games, bingo, and lottery games.

It took the AGLC from January 2019 until June 2020 to move forward with the project, though. NeoPollard Interactive will provide the online gambling platform, and the AGLC hopes it will be available to players by the middle of 2021.

Decisions on the Down-low

In the beginning, the AGLC wasn’t exactly transparent about its decision to offer online gambling. It took some investigative reporting by CBC News to uncover and reveal the decision, along with the steps that the AGLC had already taken in that direction.

By the time CBC published its report, the AGLC was already seeking proposals from developers who would want to offer a platform and create an online gaming site.

The reason for the move came from the realization that the AGLC could collect fees and profits from an industry that is and has long been based offshore. They estimated that people in Alberta spent approximately $358 million each year on sites not based in Alberta.

The AGLC claimed the move to offer online games was primarily motivated by customer safety. They wanted to provide a safe and regulated online site, along with responsible gambling tools.

Saskatchewan and Alberta were the only provinces without online gambling, and the AGLC wanted to change that.

Where Did the Time Go?

Originally, the AGLC told CBC that it wanted to select a gambling platform provider by the summer of 2019 and launch the games sometime in 2020. This was the second action of this sort, though the first happened in 2015 and at the hands of the Progressive Conservative government, who then lost power and dropped the issue.

Initially thought to be another move by the AGLC to gauge interest in online gambling, the latest effort and responses proved it a worthy project. The AGLC then said it intends to put customer safety at the fore, that being the primary reason to establish the new gambling sector.

And then…silence.

A Peep from the Budget

In February 2020, the topic of online gaming appeared again, this time as a brief mention in the UCP government’s 2020-2021 budget. Alongside a vaping tax and levy on short-term rentals, “developing an online gaming platform for Albertans” was to be another way to generate revenue for Alberta.

The AGLC did respond to inquiries about that budget notation, and a spokesperson said, “The expectation is the operator for the AGLC’s online gambling solution will be chosen by mid-2020, with an anticipated launch of the platform in mid-2021.”

The person said the delays had been a result of “contract negotiations and completing our due diligence.”

How much would the new form of gambling add to the provincial revenue? Estimates varied widely, but it would certainly add to the overall gambling economy. Revenue from established gambling systems had fallen from $1.446 billion in the 2018-2019 fiscal year to $1.39 billion in 2019-2020.

The hope is for online gambling to solidify the Alberta gambling base and attract a newer generation of players.

Found One

On June 23, the AGLC announced that it selected a vendor for its online gambling platform. It signed an agreement with NeoPollard Interactive.

“The online platform will provide a secure, age-controlled environment that promotes healthy gambling behavior and fully integrates AGLC’s GameSense responsible gambling program.”

The agreement will last for seven years, though it will be possible to extend it up to 12 years.

When the site launches, it will be open to people over the age of 18 located within the province’s borders. No residency will be required. The site will link with current land-based gambling offerings overseen by the AGLC and offer the following:

According to AGLC COO Niaz Nejad, “We are excited to move forward with NeoPollard to offer a dynamic entertainment option that brings Alberta in line with other Canadian provinces that deliver regulated online gambling sites.”

Why NeoPollard May Sound Familiar

NeoPollard Interactive has been an online lottery provider for many years and currently provides the platforms for lotteries in Virginia, New Hampshire, Michigan, and North Carolina in the US.

The company has been in the news lately, however, as a plaintiff alongside the New Hampshire Lottery Commission in a lawsuit against the United States Department of Justice and Attorney General William Barr.

The plaintiffs joined – along with support from numerous other states and online gambling providers – to challenge the Justice Department’s overturning of a 2011 interpretation of the Federal Wire Act. Essentially, the new opinion issued during the Trump Administration offered a new interpretation, one that did not relegate the Wire Act to sports betting only. The new memo put online lotteries, online poker, and all forms of online gambling that crosses state lines in jeopardy of prosecution.

NeoPollard and the New Hampshire Lottery won their case in the US District Court, but the US government appealed that decision. Just last month, both sides presented oral arguments to the US Court of Appeals, which may rule on the case anytime in the next several months.

So far, NeoPollard is well-supported and in prime position to continue its operations uninterrupted in the United States and beyond.

 

 

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. As the online gaming sectors have changed and grown, particularly in the United States and Canada, she has followed it all and written about it for websites like World Poker Tour and PokerScout. In her free time, she runs a small business, reads, cooks, and enjoys music.

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