Despite Operating Illegally Grey Market Operators in Alberta Continue to Take Sports Bets

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The Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission is taking a hard line when it comes to grey market online sports betting operators in the province. Despite the fact that grey market operators are illegal in Alberta, the grey market continues not only to operate, but to even advertise. Some of these grey market advertisements even feature celebrities like Aaron Paul and Wayne Gretzky.

These advertisements even appear during NBA or NHL games, giving legitimacy to illegally operating platforms in the province. According to the vice president of gaming with the AGLC, Steve Lautischer, it is not legal for an unregulated operator to be offering bets in Alberta. As of right now, the only legal option for placing sports bets in the province is PlayAlberta or the offerings on Western Canada Lottery Sport Select.

However, even so, there have been advertisements for many grey market sportsbooks in the province. These advertisements came as a result to the change to the Criminal Code in Canada that allowed for provinces to offer single-event sports betting, last summer in August 2021. The change to the criminal code was made partially to curb some of the illegal sports betting that was happening in Canada and to give the country and its provinces the benefits of having legal sports betting.

Canada, before the change to the criminal code, saw billions bet annually in the grey market. Now, it is up to each individual province to regulate sports betting on its own. Alberta has not yet decided to expand beyond its lottery-operated legal sports betting operator to allow for commercial sports betting operators to be licensed in the province.

Public health experts in Alberta have run the alarm bells for the dangers of the illegally operating grey market. Dr. Robert Williams is a research coordinator with the Alberta Gambling Research institute as well as a professor at the University of Lethbridge in the faculty of health sciences. He has discussed his worry for how the grey market advertisements may negatively influence young people in the area as he believes they will lead to an increase in grey market betting with youths when they become legal age.

He worries the influence will be even stronger for the advertisements that feature celebrities. He also indicated his worry when it comes to the negative influence these kinds of ads can have on recovering gambling addicts. He also feels the advertisements can counter those from public health officials that advocate for healthy gambling limitations.

The advertisements for grey market sportsbooks are not regulated very strictly, like those for alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco. This is despite the fact that gambling addiction is a very real thing many families have struggled with. However, these grey market advertisements are not illegal either.

There are also no consequences for the broadcasters who feature advertisements for grey market operators. In addition, federal agencies are not going after these illegal sportsbooks, advertisements, or the broadcasters. Regulators worry that these grey market sportsbooks are not under the same regulation obligations that regulated sportsbooks are.

This means that users’ information may not be as safe and secure as it is with a regulated sportsbook. With no penalties or prosecution coming for these grey market sportsbooks or those who use them, there is no telling when or if grey market operators will cease to operate in the province.

Written by Allie Nelson, our US Sports Betting Industry Expert.