Atlantic Lottery Corporation approached N.L. about developing iCasino
Finance Minister Cathy Bennett says online casino 'not a priority at this time'
Members of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation held meetings with the Newfoundland and Labrador government earlier this year, to talk about the possibility of developing an iCasino — an online casino — with the other Atlantic provinces.
That's according to documents obtained by CBC Investigates through Access to Information.
Finance Minister Cathy Bennett met with ALC president and CEO Brent Scrimshaw twice in January.
Documents for those meetings, given ahead of time to Bennett, outline issues the ALC is facing — namely, changes to the gaming environment, tied to the "lightning-speed developments" in online and mobile device use.
It notes "the proliferation of e-gaming and its undeniable trend as the future of lottery."
In those documents, the ALC wrote that it's "moving aggressively to ensure that it has the right games delivered through the right channels."
CBC Investigates received a brief email statement from Bennett, noting that the ALC has had a number of meetings with its shareholders to present ideas, including the iCasino.
"The provincial government has indicated to ALC that iCasino is not a priority at this time," read the statement.
The ALC also sent an email statement: "While Atlantic Lottery currently offers games online at ALC.ca, there has been no decision reached regarding casino-style games."
The statement said matters concerning gaming policy and regulation are at the discretion of the provincial government.
The pitch for an iCasino called for approvals, procurement, and software development through 2016, with a launch in early 2017.
It would include casino-style products, including slot games and table games like blackjack and roulette.
The ALC said its website already has a web portal and player account management system in place, so it would cost relatively little to add an iCasino platform.
According to the documents, the plan for an iCasino is not about creating demand for new and different types of gambling, but simply offering what residents in the region are already accessing.
"This is about player safety in an offshore online gambling world that is already the gambling destination of thousands of Atlantic Canadians, and tens of millions of Atlantic Canadian dollars," the documents state.
The ALC said current online providers are taking nearly $60 million out of Atlantic Canada each year.
The documents state that regulated iCasinos are offered in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.
Since iCasino is so profitable, Atlantic Lottery does not need all four provinces to proceed.- ALC documents provided to Finance Minister Cathy Bennett
The ALC expects an iCasino in Atlantic Canada to deliver $122 million in net revenue and $80 million in net profit over seven years.
A later section on economic benefits is blacked out.
"Since iCasino is so profitable, Atlantic Lottery does not need all four provinces to proceed," the documents state.
"Only P.E.I. is too small to proceed alone to realize profit. Ideal profitability is most likely to be achieved should all provinces participate to share the costs."
The documents also make mention of Project Matthew, stating that "a casino fit the criteria of a reasonably profitable opportunity that is consistent with our mandate."
The ALC said capital and startup costs for a casino will come from the provincial government's share of Atlantic Lottery profits.
The rest of the section on Project Matthew is blacked out.
With files from Rob Antle