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Alberta’s Top Court Rules in Favour of PlayAlberta

Alberta Court of Appeal has now ruled in favour of the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission after a legal challenge by Tsuu T’ina Gaming and other communities. The Indigenous groups have taken the matter to court as they believe that the AGLC did not have the right to establish the online gambling website, PlayAlberta, which launched in 2020.

In the challenge, the plaintiffs argued Justice Robert Armstrong blundered in his February 2022 decision protecting the iGaming platform. The Tsuut’ina Nation claimed that the judge erred in finding the commission had the statutory authority in accordance with the gaming act, to create and run an online casino platform for desktop and mobile devices in Alberta.

Alberta is Within its Rights

On Friday, the appeal judges reminded that the Criminal Code determines all lotteries and games of chance are illegal, but it has exceptions for provincial governments overseeing and running legal lottery schemes. They noted that there was a difference between a provincial government, which can operate and manage an authorized lottery scheme and others that would need approval.

In the ruling, the judges also remarked that the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act says the commission is eligible to conduct and manage provincial lotteries on behalf of the Government of Alberta. It summarized that a provincial body is within its rights to conduct and offer a provincially authorized lottery scheme. They noted such a scheme is dubbed a provincial lottery.

Their statement also said the aim of the provincial government’s provincial lottery was to raise general revenue. Furthermore, the ruling elaborated that PlayAlberta’s case was different from a lottery scheme for which a non-governmental entity is licensed by a gaming license to operate gambling activity on licensed premises or is licensed for on-site VLTs in approved establishments.

It should be also mentioned that the Tsuut’ina Nation and Stoney Nakoda First Nation launched their campaign against PlayAlberta back in April 2021. Back then they claimed that with the debut of the platform during the shutdown of casinos in Alberta, the province was collecting money that would otherwise be used for many community purposes such as health, education, and social programs.

As per the statement of Chief Clifford Poucette from the Wesley band of Stoney Nakoda, non-profit organizations will not obtain their customary financial support from the casino sector. Alternatively, the funds will be directed toward the local government. He clarified that the gaming industry allocates 77% of its revenue to assist regional enterprises, infrastructure, education, and healthcare.

Sports Betting Market Delayed

In the meantime, Alberta is also working on the introduction of its retail sports betting market, and in September 2022 it began its Request for Proposals to hear from operators who wish to enter. However, unlike Ontario, the province will not resort to an open gaming model and will limit its operators to only two. It was supposed to launch by the end of 2022, but it was not the case.

Source: Martin, Kevin “Government had authority to set up online gambling site, top court rulesCalgary Herald, April 21, 2023