Alberta Slot Machines to Be Available 24 Hours a Day

The decision is creating controversy. Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) is granting authority to all casinos in Alberta to operate 24 hours per day. The change from the previous law that required a seven-hour shutdown daily concerns many people as casinos celebrate.

AGLC Decision

Without much fanfare and with no official notice on its website, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) plans to change its rules regarding hours of operation for facilities operating slot machines. There is no timeline to fully implement the change, however.

According to AGLC spokeswoman Heather Holmen per the Edmonton Journal, casinos will need to apply to expand their hours to operate 24 hours per day, but regulation changes will allow it. The 24-hour decision will simply be an option, and no casino will be required to do it.

For years, casinos could only operate slot machines between 10am and 3am, but the new rule will keep them from having to shut down at all. There are some casinos already operating on a 24-hour-per-day basis, and they will be able to open their slot floors to the public for that entire time going forward.

Poker is allowed in casinos’ poker rooms around the clock. This has been the case for some time, and 11 of the 28 Alberta venues do offer this to poker players.

Liquor sales, however, will still be required to stop at 2am. Consumption is allowed until 3am, and then sales may restart at 10am. There are no changes to that policy.

Casinos Asked for It

Holmen said that casinos have been requesting this. They said it would be beneficial for their businesses. She told CBC News the rule change is “to be more responsive to customers and casino operators.”

The numbers do show a need. Instead of growing slot machine revenue, the AGLC 2019 financials showed a decrease in revenue. Gaming net sales delivered $1,735,993 in 2019, but that was down slightly from the previous year. Casinos want a way to turn that around and see significant growth. They also want to compete fairly with casinos in other provinces that already operate around the clock.

Some casino operators noted that the change has been in the pipeline for a long time.

Critics Foresee Problems

Former Alberta Gambling Research Institute researcher Garry Smith spoke to the CBC in an interview about his concerns. He called the change a “money grab” that will only hurt consumers.

Current research coordinator for the Institute David Hodgins said it is widely known that slot machines are often the most harmful forms of gambling. “We should really be moving toward more consumer protection and reducing the likelihood of harm,” he said. He went on to explain that people can become entranced with slot machine play and lose control, but a seven-hour break when people are forced to stop playing can help. He said that mandatory break was an opportunity for players to regain control.

Both men feel that the money to be made from a few extra hours of slot machine play is not worth sacrificing the people it will hurt in the long run. When gambling harm rises, the societal price is a bigger one to pay.

AGLC Commits to Player Wellness

When asked to respond to criticisms, AGLC spokeswoman Holmen said that they are “committed to supporting player wellness.” She went on to indicate a number of the policies in place to ensure that this happens.

Holmen noted that all members of casino staff are obligated to attend social responsibility training. She also noted that all casinos and community gaming centres now have GameSense Info Centres located near the gaming floor to be seen by patrons. Advisors are on staff to answer questions, discuss options and resources, and provide gambling help if needed.

The AGLC handbook for casino operations does dedicate a section in the beginning to “Deal Us In” casino staff training. This is described as a “social responsibility training program designed to educate casino facility licensees and their staff on how to recognize the differences between responsible and problem gambling behavior and appropriately respond to someone who may have a problem with their gambling.”

It goes on to explain the certification requirements, including for all new hires within 30 days of their start date. Certifications are then valid for five years and must be maintained.

Casinos also must be able to offer self-exclusion forms to customers, as well as brochures and signage to address issues related to gambling harm.

Longer hours will likely require more staff training and other efforts to ensure that the critics are not correct and that gambling problems do not increase with extended gambling hours.


Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen


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