Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) is the authority overseeing the gaming, liquor and cannabis industries in Alberta with a commitment to balancing consumer choice and social responsibility, to provide choices Albertans can trust. Overseeing the organization is Kandice Machado, AGLC’s first female CEO.
“I am very proud to be a part of the AGLC team and our work to support innovation and responsible economic growth while maintaining a regulatory environment that protects Albertans’ interests,” says Machado.
She joined AGLC in 2002.
“I’m on my 20th year!” she smiles, then discusses why she joined AGLC. “I’m a Certified Professional Accountant and was working in a small firm when I felt I needed something new and exciting to challenge me and my skills. AGLC appealed to me for many reasons. It is a dynamic organization that presented many avenues to grow personally and professionally while leveraging my current skill set.”
Machado continues, “I was also impressed with how AGLC contributes to Alberta by giving back to charities and the General Revenue Fund, while also focusing on social programs.”
Twenty years on, and Machado is happy she made the choice to join AGLC. “In my career, I have always focused on roles that challenge me and where I can enjoy the people I work with. AGLC has exceeded my expectations as an employer. I started in regulatory, transitioned into finance then was honored to become the CFO, with a final transition into CEO. I still enjoy the role and absolutely love the diverse group of employees and our Board of Directors. It’s been a great adventure so far.”
Machado understands that regulating an industry requires a tricky balance between oversight and respecting business’ autonomy. She is very pleased with how AGLC meets both needs.
“It is important to maintain a balanced regulatory environment, but one where stakeholders are respected,” she says. “AGLC has worked very hard to responsibly grow gaming, liquor and cannabis; these industries help provide Albertans with strength and stability. On average we transfer $2 billion annually to the General Revenue Fund, that supports many government-funded services Albertans rely on.”
In fact, Machado knows many Albertans would be surprised about AGLC’s unique structure.
“We operate in a different way than other jurisdictions across Canada, in that we are both the business and the regulator for the gaming, liquor and cannabis industries. This makes us extremely efficient in our role, but also for our stakeholders, who can come to one place for licensing, distribution, etc. It allows us to tie directly into our social programs that promote moderation and safety in gaming, liquor and cannabis use. The one entity has created a vast amount of value, and I don’t think many people know or understand that.”
Some facts that underscore this value are seen in AGLC’s 2020/2021 report.
- A total of 1,932 gaming inspections were completed to ensure compliance among proof of age, games run appropriately, etc. The compliance rate for licenses was 99.8 per cent.
- Albertans have access to 27 per cent more liquor products than five years ago and has the highest number of different products (27,500) in Canada.
- AGLC’s social responsibility training program has issued 24,189 certificates between 2018-2021. These certificates were instrumental in job creation and better work opportunities.
Over the past 10 years, an average of $315 million has been generated for thousands of Alberta charities through charitable gaming activities each year. Machado also says how proud she is of AGLC’s agile and quick response to the changing business landscape – something that was evident with the legalization of cannabis.
“We didn’t have a lot of time to implement regulation for cannabis,” Machado explains, “but we worked closely with the government, which set the stage for responsible cannabis use in the province.
“As it was a new industry and there is still a stigma with cannabis use, we certainly hit a few bumps along the way. However, we were well positioned to enter the stage and streamline things alongside liquor and gaming. This quick streamlining was because we have the authority to be both the business and regulator, and there was a lot of synergy and efficiencies between the other two streams. Not all provinces are set up this way, but with our system in Alberta, we were able to respond and evolve quickly.”
She continues, “Today we have the most cannabis retail stores in Canada – over 700 with more than 2,000 items for sale. On March 8 of this year, we transitioned so retailers can sell cannabis in store and online. We understand that Alberta retailers are responsible, effective and better set up for retail than us; allowing them to create more growth, jobs, and consumer convenience. We are proud to have worked with more than 200 licensed retailers so far, endorsing them for online sales and delivery of cannabis.”
Across gaming, liquor and cannabis, AGLC provides retailers with convenient online and in person processes and empowers consumers with education and support. AGLC’s social responsibility programs – DrinkSense, CannabisSense and GameSense – focus on public awareness and provide facts, figures and information so everyone can make an informed choice.
“AGLC balances responsible growth while ensuring Albertans have access to the tools that empower better decisions,” says Machado. She goes on to explain that COVID had a double effect on the industries they serve. Consumer action across gaming, liquor and cannabis increased, while the ability of AGLC to spread information was challenged. Providing accessible, easy-to-digest information on moderation in gaming, liquor and cannabis use through dedicated social responsibility pages on aglc.ca was an ideal solution, as was promotion of the GameSense program through Play Alberta.
“Play Alberta is the only legal online gambling site in Alberta. It includes beneficial tools such as reminders of how long a player has been online,” says Machado. “The revenue from Play Alberta stays in the province and we balance it with very strong social responsibility measures for online gamblers.” Machado mentions that AGLC’s responsible gambling program, GameSense, also puts staff on the ground in casinos to answer questions and identify those that may need help.
Another AGLC program is Dry9, which provides support for women to not drink alcohol while pregnant. This year saw a record-breaking number of Dry9 signups.
“We certainly put out tools and programs to help Albertans be mindful or gain the help they require,” smiles Machado.
AGLC is committed to adapting responsibly to evolving and ongoing needs by working alongside the community and stakeholders.
“COVID taught us that you need to evolve, and evolve quickly,” says Machado. “We have worked very hard over the last couple of years, but especially through COVID, for a more responsive and flexible environment for the gaming, liquor and cannabis industries. We worked with stakeholders to remove barriers to growth in the private sector and we are very fortunate to have engaged strong relationships with business sectors across Alberta. We are also proud of the charities, facilities and First Nations partners we work with – they all help us be stronger together.”
AGLC has just released its first strategic plan and according to Machado, there are plenty of exciting action items on the go.
“Our focus is on changing consumer and market needs. To address them we are looking into digital strategies while also focusing on our internal AGLC culture to promote customer service and innovation.”
The work culture recently earned AGLC another top employer award – making it six in total as of 2022.
“The top employer evaluation process took into account AGLC’s forward-thinking programs and commitment to work/life balance,” says Machado. “A recently added criteria was our COVID response. I’m so proud of how resilient our staff was, especially during the period where they worked from home. Our team is the reason AGLC is an exceptional place to work, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
While helping to drive AGLC forward, Machado continues to find inspiration for her daily life in the career she loves.
“The most rewarding thing, for me, is the team I get to work with and learn from daily – and that includes both AGLC employees and stakeholders. Even after 20 years I’m still learning and growing in this role.”
Outside of work, Machado maintains a joy-filled life that includes time with family and friends.
“My family enjoys hiking and spending time in our cottage. I have two teen boys and they keep me very busy with their activities! We enjoy movies, playing pool and video games. Over the last two years we have spent more time together than one could possibly imagine! I also enjoy travelling to new places and enjoying different experiences. My boys favour Disneyland so we have seen many of those theme parks. I’m looking forward to transitioning back to exploring new places. I also enjoy a good mystery novel. I’m a big fan of Patricia Cornwell.”
Machado resonated with AGLC for many personal and professional reasons; one of those was shared community values. AGLC is a proud champion of United Way and empowers its employees to contribute to its cause. Since 1982, AGLC has raised over $930,000 for United Way and looks forward to reaching its $1 million goal soon. Machado enjoys supporting United Way and the areas’ local food banks.
“I feel no Albertan should go hungry. I’m quite passionate about this.”
Machado says a big thank you to the team, stakeholders and Board.
“We are governed by a Board of nine, chaired by Len Rhodes, and it is important to acknowledge their strategic direction and support, particularly for our red tape reduction strategy. We reached our 33 per cent reduction target two years ahead of schedule and are now sitting at 39 per cent. The board really supported us with time and effort and were active participants.”
What comes next? Machado concludes, “We are excited to start on our strategic plan that outlines our objectives over the next five years to support change, remove barriers to growth, and support consumers in AGLC industries. I find the business community here is very open to connecting and collaborating. I love that about Alberta. There is a genuine want for everyone to succeed.”
The gaming, liquor and cannabis industry in Alberta continues to grow and change. AGLC is committed to helping retailers grow while empowering consumers to make informed choices. The five-year strategic plan moves all involved – AGLC, stakeholders, consumers – forward without compromising on the regulatory body’s vision, mission and values. Machado is proud to lead the charge while continuing to enjoy a career that allows her to be fully engaged in all aspects of her life. Learn more about AGLC at aglc.ca online and @AGLC.Alberta on Facebook.
Integrity – We hold ourselves to a high standard. That means operating fairly and honourably with colleagues, customers and stakeholders, even when no one is watching.
- Respect – We listen and empower. Our culture adapts and ensures all are heard to build a vibrant Alberta. And when we misstep, we take accountability.
- Collaboration – We harness the power of multiple minds and ideas. By breaking down internal and external boundaries to work together, we amplify our achievements.
- Innovation – We are always reinventing. The first answer is not always the best answer, so we let our curiosity continuously challenge the status quo.
- Inclusion- We embrace the power of diversity. Each of our unique talents, experiences and relationships come together to form one stronger AGLC.