Gaming Summit conference in Canada - update

Time to legalise Canadian online casino operations, says industry representative

The Gaming Summit in Calgary, Canada and its preoccupation with “the elephant in the room” – online gambling – has continued to attract media reportage.

The Calgary Herald reported that online gambling industry officials emphasized that they would like to see provincial governments move to protect players from unscrupulous sites, as has been mooted by several provinces (see previous InfoPowa reports).

About $1 billion a year is spent gambling online, part of a $30 billion global market -, and most of it goes offshore due to Canadian laws against in-country operators.

John Fitzgerald, the president of online gambling trade association the Interactive Gaming Council, said that while it is legal to gamble online in Canada, it is illegal to operate an Internet gambling site in the country.

FitzGerald added that it was time to change that situation, arguing that legalising and regulating the industry would better protect players.

Side benefits would be employment and tax revenue gains, he said.

"It would create more jobs, more innovation through technology ... and it could create more revenue for government," FitzGerald said.

Alberta provincial regulatory officials are apparently taking a neutral position, saying that the province will not yet follow British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, the Atlantic Provinces and Manitoba, all of which are considering the pros and cons of entering the business.

"We remain in a monitoring mode," said Lynn Hutchings-Mah, spokeswoman for the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission. "It's a decision that would have to be made by the Alberta government."

Paul Burns, of hosts the Canadian Gaming Association said: "We as an industry and government and regulators have to come to grips and catch up and bring in a regulatory environment.”

Gaming online is allowed in Canada if the site is operated by a provincial government lottery agency, Burns said. But so far only a few — including the B.C. and Atlantic lottery corporations — have offered web-based services.

Burns acknowledged that developing a regulatory framework to address internet gambling — and get a share of the revenue flowing out of Canada — will be challenging.
The effort in the United States aimed at banning online gambling through financial measures has failed, Burns opined.

"They're finding it impossible to implement, impossible to enforce. So there are now bills in both houses in the United States looking at how they can regulate it," he said.

All Canadian provinces are trying to develop workable solutions, and legal online gambling based in Canada will be a reality within a couple of years, Burns predicted.

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