Alberta is looking for two private sportsbook operators to help conduct and manage online sports betting in the province. The companies, yet to be chosen by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC), will also work with the province’s NHL and CFL teams to expand legal wagering at professional sports venues.
The limited move to embrace private sportsbooks is in contrast to most Canadian provinces, which have mainly opted to limit legal sports wagering options to government-run lottery corporations. Ontario is the exception, with its plans to establish a competitive market with an unlimited number of licenced operators.
AGLC president and chief executive officer Kandice Machado said on Friday that the province has posted a negotiated request for proposal on the Alberta Purchasing Connection website aimed at landing two successful companies. Steve Lautischer, AGLC’s acting vice president of gaming and cannabis, said he hopes to see the application process close at the end of January.
“This is a first step in creating a new industry throughout the province,” he said at a virtual press conference on Friday. “The hope is that the first set of retail sportsbooks are operating later in 2022.”
The AGLC oversees the gaming, alcohol, and cannabis industries across the province. The regulator launched single-event online sports betting through its PlayAlberta.ca platform on Sept. 1.
“By opening retail sports betting up to two proponents now, AGLC is able to bring this service to sports fans in Alberta earlier in 2022,” Machado said. “If AGLC were to open the market up to all vendors, the process required to bring the service to Albertans would be significantly delayed.
Speaking about plans to engage Alberta’s professional sports franchises, Lautischer said he wants to make sure retail sports betting works “at the arena level.”
“Just imagine the excitement of the Labor Day Classic or a Saturday night Battle of Alberta, and walking over to a licensed sports betting area to bet on who has the next touchdown or goal,” he said.
According to a report by the boutique research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, Alberta could generate online sports betting gross gaming revenue of $163.4 million in 2022, rising to $216.7 million in 2026.
Canadian provinces gained the legal authority to allow single-event sports betting on Aug. 27, following the royal assent of legislation amending the criminal code on June 29. The change removed language that limited Canada’s lawful sports betting markets to wagers spanning multiple events.
To date, the only legal channels for single-event sports betting in Canada have been through provincial lottery corporations, such as Ontario’s PROLINE+, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation’s PlayNow, Loto-Quebec’s Mise-o-jeu, and PlayAlberta.
Ontario had targeted the end of 2021 to launch its highly-anticipated competitive market for private sportsbooks. However, expectations within the industry have shifted to the first quarter of 2022. According to Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, Ontario is expected to generate online sports betting gross gaming revenue of $570.1 million in 2022, rising to $905 million in 2026.
The promise of an open, regulated market in Canada’s most populous province has prompted an influx of major foreign-owned sportsbooks. Australia’s PointsBet Holdings (PBH.AX) and FanDuel, owned by Dublin-based Flutter Entertainment (FLTR.L), have each established teams based in Toronto. Both are separately led by chief executives with experience from Canadian telecom and media giant Rogers Communications (RCI-B.TO). Boston-based DraftKings (DKNG) has also expressed interest in the Ontario market. In August, U.S. gambling firm Penn National Gaming (PENN) announced a deal to acquire Toronto-based Score Media and Gaming.
Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.