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Calgary Online Casinos

Calgary Online CasinosWith a population of nearly 1.1 million residents, Calgary is one of the largest cities in all of Canada, and the largest in the province of Alberta. Not far from the Rockies and at the point where the Bow and Elbow Rivers meet, the city is known for being a hub of Canadian corporations, as well as for hosting the 1988 Winter Olympic Games – the first Canadian city to receive that honor.

Calgary is also a town that includes plenty of gambling options for those who are interested in placing a few bets. That includes not only a number of charity casinos in the area, but also the possibility of playing at online gambling sites. While there are no locally regulated options – Alberta is one of the only provinces remaining in Canada that does not have a licensing process for the industry – there are many foreign operators who are happy to allow Canadians to play, including those from Calgary.

Expansion Brings Multitude of Local Venues

For over a century, gambling has been allowed in Canada and the Calgary area in limited forms. The first form of betting to be allowed, as in many places around the world, was parimutuel betting, with most of that taking place on horse racing. For most of the time since then, horse racing has been available for fans and gamblers in the city. Unfortunately, as in many other locales, interested waned over the years, and in 2008, it appeared that the industry might leave for good.

But that changed in 2015. The Century Downs Racetrack – bolstered by other forms of gambling expansion, which we’ll talk about in a bit – hosted the first horse race in the city in eight years. The track also committed to schedules of thoroughbred, Standardbred, and quarter horse races for years to come. It was a welcome return to many, one that was precipitated by a slow but steady expansion of gaming that has been taking place throughout Alberta in recent decades.

Most of these expansions date back to the 1970s, when the first charity casinos were allowed to open in the province. In fact, the very first permanent facility, Cash Casino, opened in Calgary in 1980. Since then, more and more of these charitable operations have opened, with a total of two dozen or more now running throughout Alberta. Seven of those are found right in this city, including:

  • Cash Casino
  • Casino Calgary
  • Deerfoot Inn and Casino
  • Elbow River Casino
  • Century Casino
  • Grey Eagle Casino
  • Stampede Casino

A couple of those venues deserve special note. The Grey Eagle is run by the Tsuu T’ina Nation, as First Nations groups are permitted to own and operate gambling facilities under the same rules as any other group, provided their venues are located on reserve land. Also, we’ll note that “Century” is indeed part of the Century Downs complex; as in many other locations in the US and Canada, this “racino” has combined parimutuel betting with more traditional casino games, allowing racing to continue at the venue thanks to the additional revenue that slots, video lottery terminals, and electronic table games bring in.

One of the other major expansions of gambling in Alberta has been the proliferation of video lottery terminals, or VLTs. These slots-like games were first introduced in 1992, and have since grown into a massive revenue generator for the province. Today, there are 6,000 VLTs throughout Alberta, including many that can be found in restaurants, bars, and other venues in Calgary.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that there are lots of lottery games that can be played here. First offered in the late 1970s, today lotteries in Alberta are run through the Western Canada Lottery Corporation, which also runs drawings in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and coordinates efforts with other operators across the country. Their offerings include some of the biggest jackpot games in Canada, including Lotto 6/49 and Lotto Max, though there are also smaller games, keno, and scratch cards.

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Plenty of Access, But No Online Regulation

While the subject has come up from time to time, there is no online gambling regulation currently on the books in Alberta. That’s different than most of the rest of the country, as eight of the 10 provinces now have at least some Internet gaming licensing available. While that means you won’t be able to play at any sites that have oversight provided by the Albertan government, that doesn’t mean you can’t play at all.

Instead, those in the Calgary area can play poker, casino games, and other gambling contests over the Internet via sites that are owned and operated overseas. While these sites may be skirting the law by providing their services to Canadians, individual players are doing absolutely nothing wrong by playing on these sites where they are available; in other words, it is legal to play on these sites, even if operating such a site is not allowed.

Not all foreign operators are happy to take Canadian players, though the majority of sites are still available throughout Canada. Those who choose not to offer their real money games here might do so for a number of reasons: for instance, they may be trying to keep their regulatory profiles as clear as possible, because they may later want to apply for licenses in other provinces where regulation is present, or they may simply have a policy of only operating where they are explicitly licensed.

The good news is that there are plenty of highly reputable and very trustworthy sites that still offer their games to Albertans. In the future, it possible that Alberta might also start regulating and licensing online gaming sites themselves (more on that in a moment), but for the moment, you’ll have to look outside of Canada to play for real money.

Debate Continues Over Internet Regulation

Alberta may have rejected online gambling during the first wave of legislation that swept across Canada, but there are signs that this position might not hold for the long-term. While there are certainly concerns about the potentially harmful effects of expanding the gaming industry, the revenue that casino sites could generate is tempting, particularly for a government that is heavily reliant on the energy industry at a time when oil prices are low.

In 2015, discussion of the idea bubbled up against when Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission CEO Bill Robinson brought up the topic, saying that more than $100 million was spent by residents of the province every year on Internet gaming. For Robinson, it was a natural revolution: the province had already taken steps to modernize the gaming industry, including multiple rounds of updates to their VLTs, and the web was simply the next logical progression. The Commission even sought bids from companies that might be interested in providing services to the province.

Not everyone was on board with that idea, however. Later in the year, Finance Minister Joe Ceci said that he wasn’t ready to consider the issue, feeling that he was not properly briefed on the subject and that he (and the government) would need more information before they could consider regulating such games. That position was applauded by some researchers, many of whom believed any revenues from Internet games would simply be diverted from other forms of entertainment in Calgary and the rest of the province.

For now, at least, it looks like any plans to expand gambling online are on hold. But regardless of which way Alberta ultimately goes on this issue, there’s no denying that the province is now heavily dependent on gaming revenue for its budget, a fact that even those opposed to gambling have acknowledged in the face of falling oil prices. That means that going forward, we would expect to see any debates over the future of gaming – either land-based or over the web – be more about the specifics of programs that exist rather than whether they should exist at all. Oil prices could also be an important factor to watch: the longer they stay low, the more the sentiment for new revenue streams could increase, improving the odds of online regulation in the future.

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