Alberta government officials are watching as other provinces decide to try their luck at running online gambling sites.
"We've definitely been researching and monitoring online gaming for a number of years," said Lynn Hutchings-Mah, a spokeswoman for the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission. "Gaming does generate revenue."
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan announced Tuesday that the province will offer online gambling by early 2012. The Maritime provinces and B.C. already have online gambling sites, and Quebec is expected to introduce it in September.
Hutchings-Mah estimates traditional sources of gaming revenue for the province have dropped about 15 per cent in the last couple of years, based on figures from before the recession and money earned to date this year.
Community groups that get money from casinos and lotteries are worried they won't get a cut of provincial online gambling revenues.
"You can bet that if the province made decisions with respect to online gaming that would decrease revenue, then they're in trouble with the not-for-profit sector," said Valerie Pachal, a spokeswoman for the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues.
Garry Smith, research co-ordinator for the Alberta Gambling Research Institute at the University of Alberta, has a list of concerns about online gambling.
"[There's] potential in it for an increase in problem gambling, potential for the increase in youth gambling," he said. "It's very hard to supervise people. They can do it at home. There's no precautions out there. It would be difficult to stop money laundering using it, and [it] might just increase people's overall gambling rate."
Smith feels the province should do a lot of consultation before introducing online gaming — something other provinces have neglected, he said.
Canadians spend about $1 billion on internet gambling sites based outside the country, a Canadian Gaming Association study estimated.