Alberta launched an online gambling website Thursday in an effort to move bettors away from unregulated sites and boost government revenue.
PlayAlberta.ca will offer virtual slots and table games along with other features in the coming months. It is expected to generate about C$150 million ($113 million) in revenue over the first five years, said Niaz Nejad, chief operating officer of Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis, a provincial agency.
The development of the site started before the pandemic, but the launch comes weeks after the oil-rich Canadian province sharply reduced its revenue forecast. The Alberta government said revenue for the fiscal year that ends in March 2021 would be C$38.4 billion, 23% lower than projected in a February budget, partly because of a crash in energy royalties due to low oil prices.
In August, the government cut its fiscal year forecast for gaming and lottery net income by 65% due to the temporary shutdown of casinos in the pandemic. The new forecast is C$496 million, far below the C$1.3 billion generated the year prior.
Though casinos were permitted to open in June, with table games reopening in September, physical distancing requirements reduce the number of people permitted to gamble at a time.