Who's Interested in Alberta Online Poker? A: PokerStars and BetMGM Who's Interested in Alberta Online Poker? A: PokerStars and BetMGM

Is Alberta going to be the next Canadian province with a competitive, regulated market for real money online poker?

PokerStars and BetMGM seem to think so.

Both have hired lobbyists for help with two things — getting introduced to provincial regulators and opening a line of communications with them, too. Each is seen as an essential step before a possible overhaul of Alberta’s igaming setup.

That overhaul could be coming soon. Alberta just allocated $1 million to conduct a comprehensive review of its gaming laws.

Specifically, the Ministry of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction will take a look at the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act [GLCA] and other laws to see where the government could ease the regulatory burden on business and to “[find] ways to increase contributions to Alberta charities and community facilities.”

The nod toward charities is important because Alberta uses a unique charitable gaming model as the basis for all forms of gambling in the province. But it has long discussed the possibility of abandoning that model for igaming — under which the province’s PlayAlberta platform is the only provider of online casino gaming and sports betting licensed by the government, with a gray market running alongside.

Note: PlayAlberta doesn’t feature peer-to-peer poker, so Alberta online poker players can only play on offshore online poker sites.

Instead, the administration of Alberta Premier Danielle Smith appears committed to establishing a regulated marketplace for real money online poker that closely resembles that of Ontario, the first Canadian province to take the leap.

The province’s lobbyist registry shows PointsBet Canada, TonyBet, and The Score Media and Gaming also hired lobbyists in Alberta to help with gaming issues. Two local facilities — Century Mile Racetrack and Casino, and Century Downs Racetrack and Casino — have also hired lobbyists.

An Alberta-Ontario Market Would Be Huge

At this point, Alberta’s approach to possibly ditching a government-run igaming monopoly in favor of a regulated market of private operators closely tracks that of Ontario. But if Alberta follows every single step that Ontario took, it will wind up in the same place — with a segregated market for real money online poker.

That would be unfortunate, considering the size of a potential market between Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, and Alberta, which ranks fourth.

If officials in both provinces made the necessary changes to allow multi-jurisdictional online poker, the combined market would have 20.6 million residents in total. By comparison, Michigan and New Jersey — the two largest members of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), a multi-state gaming compact in the US — total just 19.3 million people.

You could add the 1 million residents of MSIGA’s least-populous member state, Delaware, and the Alberta-Ontario matchup would still be larger by 300,000 residents.

MSIGA’s five member states (Nevada and West Virginia are the other two) have 25.3 million residents in total.

While it’s unclear if Ontario would make the requisite changes, officials with iGaming Ontario (iGO) have said that prior to launching its regulated market of private real money online poker operators in April 2022, it considered the idea of shared liquidity and forming a multi-jurisdictional gaming compact with other Canadian provinces or territories.