Alberta Gambling Revenues Increase for the First Time Since 2015

Alberta Gambling Revenues Increase for the First Time Since 2015

After two consecutive years of decline, the gambling revenues in Alberta increased by $4 million in 2018. The increase was largely due to video lottery terminals (VLTs), which are growing in popularity.

The revenue from casino slot machines, electronic bingo, and VLTs was $1.736 billion during the fiscal year. This information comes from the most recent annual report from Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC). This is a slight increase from 2017; the revenue was $1.732 billion.

The annual take from Alberta for gaming activities reached $1.906 billion in 2015. The number went down for the next two years. The AGLC states this was due to the economic downturn.

Gambling and the Economy

Alberta Gambling Revenues Increase for the First Time Since 2015 1The economy and revenues from gambling are significantly intertwined according to University of Calgary psychology professor, David Hodgins. Hodgins is also a research coordinator with the Alberta Gambling Research Institute. The professor states, “People gamble for lots of different reasons, and for lots of people, it’s very much a leisure activity. And the more disposable income people have, the more they engage in leisure activities. So it’s certainly tied to the economy in that way.”

However, for a small percentage of people who are compulsive gamblers, Hodgins says that these people gamble as a way to temporarily escape their financial situation. He states, “They see it as a way of getting money as opposed to spending money.” Hodgins further asserts, “Gambling addiction is associated with the perspective that gambling is a potential solution to problems, in comparison to somebody who’s gambling for fun, where they see it as a source of entertainment.”

The professor states that a number of surveys in several provinces suggest that around 1 percent of adults have “significant gambling problems.” An additional 1 to 2 percent has what is classified as a moderate gambling issue.

The Growth of VLT Revenue

From the three types of gambling that Alberta directly operates, VLTs saw the biggest growth in the last year. The revenues went up 1.9 percent. Electronic bingo revenue went up by 0.4 percent. However, slot machine revenue decreased by 0.6 percent.

Chara Goodlings, AGLC spokesperson, stated that VLT revenues tend to go up and down based on the economy. This is largely because the revenues are dispersed widely throughout the country. There are about 900 lounges, bars and other facilities that provide licensed gambling and VLTs, according to Goodlings. Casino-based slot machines are in 28 Alberta locations. Goodlings states that VLTs “do a better job of capturing the changes in the economy because they are more of an interest to the younger demographic.”

Where Does the Money Go?

canada money stacksRevenue from slot machines, electronic bingo and VLTs, with related expenses included, plus Alberta’s percentage of income from the Western Canada Lottery Corporation, goes to the Alberta Lottery Fund each year. In 2018, this total was a little over $1.4 billion. The Alberta government divides the funds for several operations within the province.

The budget allocation is as follows:

$638 million to health care (specifically, continuing care)

$300 million to school transportation, plant operation and maintenance

$184 million to various culture and tourism programs and grants

$123 million to the First Nations Development Fund

$70 million to community and social services

$40 million for provincial highway maintenance

$23 million to agricultural service boards, societies and exhibitions

$10 million for Alberta Parks operations

These amounts don’t include the revenue that comes from bingo, pull tickets, raffles, and casino table games. These activities are separately operated and are classified as “charitable gaming” in Alberta. The proceeds from these games were $331.2 million last year. This is a slight decrease from the previous year, when the total was $336.2 million.

According to the AGLC annual report, the money from charitable games has to be used “for approved charitable or religious purposes.” Every year, the funds are used for the support of thousands of services and programs provided to communities in Alberta.

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