An Alberta agency asked for help with sports betting, and some of the biggest names in the business at least glanced at the opportunity.
The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC) issued a negotiated request for proposals (RFP) in December that sought two companies to work with the province's casino operators in developing both brick-and-mortar and online sportsbooks.
While proposals were to be accepted until January 31, the AGLC extended the window for another two weeks, until February 14. This was due to the “high amount of interest” in the Alberta market, a spokesperson said, leading the agency to give possible bidders more time.
That there was at least some interest is underscored by the RFP’s list of “interested vendors," which is posted on the website of the Alberta Purchasing Connection, a provincial procurement system. Companies get added to the list when they download a document connected to an opportunity.
Although vendors and their employees may have just downloaded and looked at the RFP documents out of curiosity (and AGLC didn’t disclose who actually bid), the list includes some of the biggest brands in sports betting, such as BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings, and FanDuel.
Also on the AGLC's interested-vendors list are technology companies like IGT and Kambi, as well as a few Canadian lottery corporations and various other types of businesses and service providers, including auditors and lobbying firms.
We’re excited to announce that @PointsBetCanada recognizes the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor as a possible expansion point for its digital sports betting operations.— Invest Alberta (@Invest_Alberta) February 11, 2022
A diverse workforce, competitive tax rates & avid sports fanbase are among Alberta's perks: https://t.co/3RfsB21Iog pic.twitter.com/UNeq8VHXaj
A spokesperson for AGLC said they would now continue their “vetting and evaluation processes” over the next several months. The government agency is aiming to open the new retail and online sportsbooks later this year.
“Currently, AGLC does not announce the number of organizations who submitted proposals or their identities,” said Karin Campbell, manager of communications at the agency, in an email to Covers. “As AGLC awards the contracts to the successful proponents, an announcement will be made communicating the vendors to the public. That announcement is expected in the second half of 2022.”
Still, the close of the RFP is another step forward for Alberta as Canada's fourth-most populous province prepares to broaden its avenues of legal sports betting.
Currently, the only authorized sources of sports wagering in Alberta are AGLC’s PlayAlberta website and the games offered by the Western Canada Lottery Corp. via certain brick-and-mortar retailers.
Start your engines
AGLC wants to add to those choices. The agency is seeking a “betting engine” that could be used by the province’s 28 casinos for retail and mobile sportsbooks. Further down the line, the solution could be adopted by the province's professional sports franchises, such as the CFL’s Edmonton Elks, in setting up sportsbooks at their home venues.
Among other goals, AGLC is trying to capture at least some of the revenue that is currently flowing out of the province and into the coffers of offshore and illegal bookmakers.
“This will expand access for legal-aged Albertans in a safe and regulated environment, while continuing to expand convenience and choice for players and businesses,” AGLC CEO Kandice Machado told media in December. “Allowing private-sector operators into the Alberta market ensures that dollars that may have been heading to the grey market will come back to our province.”
Alberta’s set-up would be unique in Canada, where most provinces have been content to let their government-owned lottery and gaming corporations act as the only legal provider of sports betting.
Yet Alberta's plan is still relatively restrictive compared to some of the open markets in the U.S. and the one being developed in Ontario. Operators may have been hoping for more of an opportunity to compete for business in the western province.
However, one of the reasons why AGLC is only tapping two vendors — for now — is speed, as it wants its new sportsbooks ready this year.
“As a first step in this process, AGLC is seeking two proponents to provide some flexibility and options in the first phase, and will consider additional opportunities as the market continues to develop,” the agency said in December.