PlayAlberta.ca was launched on Oct 1, 2020 to much fanfare. The ALGC promised a great user experience, strong competition against internationally licensed online casinos and increased revenues for the province. As of March 2021, the ALGC reported that net revenues of PlayAlberta, over the previous six months, was $37 million. Now, heading into 2022, are the promises going to turn into a reality, is revenue going to meet expectations and is Play Alberta really delivering a better product than other Canadian online casinos.
On the revenue front, the fiscal 2020-2021 year that ended Mar 31, 2021, was a disappointment for ALGC. Net gaming operating income, with includes both online and land based gambling, has declined for three straight years falling from $1.45 billion in 2021 to $773 million, representing a 47% decline. Online Gambling at PlayAlberta.ca reported only $37 million over 6 months, falling well short of expectations.
In contrast, the global online gambling market grew from an estimated $50 billion in 2019 to $64.13 billion in 2020 and is expected to top $70.02 billion in 2021 representing a 29% growth over the same period that the ALGC is reporting 47% decline. The move to online casinos over the last two years, fueled by people spending more time at home, has seem unprecedented growth. Something that the LAGC so far has not taken advantage.
Play Alberta is the only provincially licensed and regulated online casino available to Albertans. However, there are hundreds of internationally licensed Canadian real money online casinos. Huge brand names such as Jackpot City, Spin Casino, Betway and Genesis casinos have dominated the online casino market in Canada for over two decades. These casinos offer hundreds, if not thousands, of games from multiple software providers. They are also licensed in reputable jurisdictions like Malta and overseen by regulatory bodies such as the UK Gambling Commission and eCOGRA. Some of these casinos are even licensed in Kahanawake, a first nations licensing body located outside of Montreal.
These major brands have satisfied hundreds of thousands of Canadian gamblers and draw in more every year with large and enticing welcome bonuses that offer “free bonus money” and free spins. They also offer dozens of payment and withdrawal options like Interac, e-transfer, eCheck, Neosurf, Paysafe and Apple Pay. They promise fast withdrawals and there are hundreds of casino review sites that cater to giving players the best options and bonuses.
How does Play Alberta match up against these online casino giants? The welcome bonus at PlayAlberta.ca is a $20 money bonus on deposits of $10 or more and the bonus carries a wagering requirement of 20 times (20x). This compares poorly with online casinos that offer as much as $1600 match bonuses and as many as 300 free spins. They also offer a $20 sports betting bonus match for those interested in the new single sports betting option made legal in Canada earlier this year.
There are 67 slot games available to play from software provider IGT. Alberta gamblers will be familiar with these games as they are the same ones available at local casinos. There are also 10 table games ranging from blackjack, baccarat and roulette to poker. This pales in comparison to the over 1600 online casino games and over 1400 online slots offered by online casinos like Genesis. Even the smallest sized online casinos offer over 500 casino games. They also offer games from multiple software providers like Microgaming, NetEnt and Playtech as well as massive progressive jackpot slot games like Mega Moolah, which pays out millions of dollars each time it is won.
Comparatively, there is not much reason for someone from Edmonton or Calgary to choose Play Alberta over these online casinos. There is also the worry that the provincial online casino does not pay out as much as the others. IGT is not know for high RTP (Return to Player) games, which is the determining factor in how much a player can win. Provincial online casinos like Play OLG and EspaceJeux in Quebec have already admitted that they did not pay out as much as other casinos and that was a barrier to getting new players. Player reviews on Reddit back this up as most players complain that they are not winning nearly as much on playalberta.ca.
PlayAlberta’s future is not looking very bright. Not only have they failed to capitalize on the huge shift to online gambling, but the product they offer is significantly worse than those international online casinos. The revenue numbers paint a problematic story. With gaming revenues in sharp decline in Alberta and the overall gambling market increasing, the market share of Canadian gamblers is going to continue to drift overseas. Unless they dramatically improve their offering or force legislation on the international market, ALGC’s revenues are going to continue to decline in 2022.