8 Aug

Current Status of Alberta Online Gambling Laws

Online Gambling Laws in Alberta, Canada: Unraveling the Legality of iGaming in the Wild Rose Country

The gaming laws of Alberta, Canada are quite lengthy. The province has gone to great effort to lay out verbose terminology mandating exactly how any gambling operation may or may not conduct business. However, those laws apply exclusively to gambling operators that are licenced and regulated by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC). Anything short of that is subject to federal law, as detailed in the Criminal Code of Canada.

What this means is that any locally licensed operation – specifically, the provincially-organized gambling website, PlayAlberta.ca – is perfectly legal. It also means that international gambling sites with no physical presence in Canada are also legal.

In the following text, we’ll detail the laws of Alberta and Canada as they pertain to online gambling to give you a clear view of how we (and a bevy of legal experts) come to this conclusion. We’ll start with expressly legal gambling options in the province.

Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers, and are not qualified or attempting to offer legal advice. The following is our personal interpretation of current legislation. For precise clarification of the laws in Alberta and/or Canada, please contact an attorney or local authorities. 

Regulated iGaming  Comes to Alberta

Online Gambling Laws in Alberta, CanadaThe decision to move ahead with a home-grown iGaming website was the product of years of research and debate. Serious discussions began in 2015 but were consistently met with backlash from opponents, hurling questionable statistics.

Over the next three years, Alberta came to the blatant conclusion that Albertans, like other Canadians, were in fact gambling online, with or without express permission. And that meant players weren’t being protected by local authorities, and that millions of dollars that could be worked back into the local economy, were instead being funneled offshore.

Leaders were finally getting serious about iGaming in 2019. That year, a request for proposals was issued to determine a technology provider for the platform. March of the following year brought confirmation of a plan in the provincial budget, calling upon AGLC to regulate an iGaming product. Three months later, NeoPollard was unveiled as the chosen platform developer, and by October, PlayAlberta.ca went live.

At launch, PlayAlberta was home to a collection of popular online casino games; slot machines and table games mostly. These real-money amusements were available to anyone physically present in the province, age 18 and above. The online casino is a safe haven for Alberta’s iGaming masses, with the backing of AGLC’s GameSense responsible gambling program.

“PlayAlberta.ca is another way AGLC is delivering a responsible gambling choice for the benefits of Albertans. The province’s regulated online gambling website will offer players expanded entertainment options with integrated responsible gambling features and generate revenue to support valuable programs and services Albertans rely on every day.”

-Alain Maisonneuve, (then) President & CEO, AGLC

PlayAlberta Expands Into Sports Betting

Over the next three years, PlayAlberta expanded into a full-fledged online gambling operation. Today, players can enjoy their favorite RNG and live dealer online casino games, partake in local lotteries, and bet on a variety of sporting events (MLB, MLS, MMA, NBA, NFL, WNBA, etc.)

The addition of a sportsbook was a game changer for the website. Sports betting went live in September 2021, bringing a mass of new players to the website. However, there are still many Albertans who choose to gamble with offshore websites. The legality of these sites can be a bit cloudy. Which brings us to…

Federal Gambling Laws Applicable to Alberta iGaming

The following are excerpts from the Criminal Code of Canada, Part VII, relating to Disorderly Houses, Gaming and Betting. We did not alter any text. However, we did omit several paragraphs that do not apply to online gambling. We’ll start with Section 197, dealing with definitions.

Criminal Code of Canada
PART VII
Disorderly Houses, Gaming and Betting
197 (1) In this Part,
Meaning
Bet means a bet that is placed on any contingency or event that is to take place in or out of Canada, and without restricting the generality of the foregoing, includes a bet that is placed on any contingency relating to a horse-race, fight, match or sporting event that is to take place in or out of Canada; (pari)A bet applies to sports betting, horse race betting and other matches or contests that involve athletic skill and ability.
Game means a game of chance or mixed chance and skill; (jeu)A game applies to all forms of casino gambling (slots, blackjack, wheel games, video poker, etc.) with predetermined odds and probabilities that are based entirely or partly on chance, not skill.
Gaming equipment means anything that is or may be used for the purpose of playing games or for betting; (matériel de jeu)This could apply to a computer used to conduct online gambling.
Betting, pool-selling, book-making, etc.
202 (1) Every one commits an offence who
Meaning
(e) engages in book-making or pool-selling, or in the business or occupation of betting, or makes any agreement for the purchase or sale of betting or gaming privileges, or for the purchase or sale of information that is intended to assist in book-making, pool-selling or betting;Applies to a person or business conducting a bet that is not legally regulated by in the province in which it takes place. There is no mention of game in this paragraph, therefore casino gambling does not apply.
(f) prints, provides or offers to print or provide information intended for use in connection with book-making, pool-selling or betting on any horse-race, fight, game or sport, whether or not it takes place in or outside Canada or has or has not taken place;Again, no mention of game (i.e. casino gambling) in this paragraph; applies only to betting.
(g) imports or brings into Canada any information or writing that is intended or is likely to promote or be of use in gambling, book-making, pool-selling or betting on a horse-race, fight, game or sport, and where this paragraph applies it is immaterial…The promotion of betting and/or gaming is illegal unless otherwise permitted by the regulations of a particular province. It is illegal for international gambling websites to specifically promote services in Alberta, Canada. The process of accepting wagers on games is not relevant here.
(h) advertises, prints, publishes, exhibits, posts up, or otherwise gives notice of any offer, invitation or inducement to bet on, to guess or to foretell the result of a contest, or a result of or contingency relating to any contest;See above.
Punishment

(2) Every one who commits an offence under this section is guilty of an indictable offence and liable

Meaning
(a) for a first offence, to imprisonment for not more than two years;Up to 2yrs in jail for first offence.
(b) for a second offence, to imprisonment for not more than two years and not less than fourteen days; and2wks-2yrs in jail for second offence.
(c) for each subsequent offence, to imprisonment for not more than two years and not less than three months.3mos-2yrs in jail for 3+ offences.

What Does It All Mean?

This question continues to arise for locals. Is online gambling explicitly legal or illegal in Alberta, Canada? When you put it all together, it doesn’t paint a perfectly clear picture. However, we can break it down to make a few apparent determinations.

  1. Alberta could interpret participation in sports betting or pari-mutuel betting over the internet as an illegal activity.
  2. Participating in online casino gambling, or any other game of chance (with or without combined skill) in Alberta is not illegal, so long as the operator does not have a physical presence (e.g. local offices) anywhere in Canada.
  3. Any online betting or gaming operator who specifically advertises their services to Canadians could be guilty of an offence. However, this applies only to the operator, not the players who choose to use those services.
  4. It is illegal for offshore gambling websites to promote services in Canada. It is not explicitly illegal to accept deposits from, process gaming wagers for, or cashout winnings to players in Alberta, Canada.

The general consensus is that, because so many international operators have no physical presence in Canada, they are not doing anything illegal by accepting Canadian players. So, even though they are not expressly legal in Alberta, they are not expressly illegal either. This determination classifies the vast majority of offshore gambling operators into a grey area of the law. On this, most legal experts agree: If it’s not illegal, it’s legal.

Author

  • Adalene Lucas

    is our jack of all trades here at DBC. She is a skilled coder, gambler, writer and webmaster. She lives in Manitoba where she enjoys the lush landscapes and camping near Tulabi Falls. Nature gives her inspiration to write. When she's not immersed in nature, her favorite words are "game theory". She lives with her husband and their two Labradors, Kophy and Whisper.

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