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Atlantic Lottery Corporation blames offshore poker sites on layoffs

Atlantic Lottery Corporation, which oversees gambling in the Atlantic provinces of Canada, let go 61 employees on Wednesday, attributing the cut to COVID-19 and business challenges that require the organization to urgently transform.

But it appears something bigger is at play — offshore iGaming websites that compete with the government’s own land-based casinos and its regional lottery.

“We think that there’s at least a 20 per cent increase on an annualized basis with that number, and maybe more. So it’s a problem and it’s getting worse,” said Chris Keevil, CEO of Atlantic Lottery Corporation.

He continued: “Our challenges are not unlike a lot of other businesses in Atlantic Canada. There’s a digital transformation that is hitting a lot of industries, and that digital transformation is moving customers from traditional ways of buying goods and services to buying online.”

Keevil notes that the offshore sites, located in places like Gibraltar, Isles of Man, the Caribbean, and Central America are able to market themselves through digital channels and often broadcast TV, with an offer to players to enjoy free registration and free games.

He argues that, “once they’ve got you for free, registered online, then they can market to you directly, to drop your credit card or set up a funded account so that the money moves offshore. There’s no certainty that the play is fair, as an example. There’s no certainty that the money is going to come back to you when you want it to come back to you. There’s no regulation or oversight.”

While the Atlantic Lottery Corporation doesn’t run its own online gaming site, its website includes a Play Online tab. However, the service is limited to playing lottery games online.

Other provinces have successfully created their own provincial online gaming sites, including PlayNow in British Columbia, which offers players online casino and poker games.

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, offers players online casino games through its PlayOLG website.

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