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Rapid Growth of the Online Gambling Industry in Saskatchewan

Karen Newport 3 March 2023 - 22:43:30
Growth of Saskatchewan Online Gambling Industry

Residents of the province have wagered almost $32 million in the first two months since the market was regulated.

In the first two months of PlayNow.com operation, in the new gaming platform available in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, bets were made for nearly $32 million, or to be precise - $31.8 million.

After the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) received exclusive rights to create the province's first regulated gaming website, the authority approached the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) to design PlayNow.com. As a result, on November 3rd, 2022, PlayNow.com, called an alternative to offshore gambling websites that do not follow any provincial and federal regulatory standards, began functioning as the only legal betting site in the territory of Saskatchewan. The platform functions in accordance with the regulatory body of Saskatchewan - the Liquor and Gaming Authority, as well as with the Alcohol and Gaming Regulation Act of 1997.

The statistics provided by SIGA show that there is a clearly noticeable increase in the amount of money used to place bets. If in November it was equal to $14.8, then in December it reached $17 million. And by the end of December 2022, the PlayNow.com platform already had 8,015 registered users. What does this mean? For each registered user in November and December, PlayNow.com receives $3,967 in wagers.

Nonetheless, the director of SIGA, Michael Bellegarde, clarified that the total bet amount of approximately $32 million also includes various bonuses, promotions, and free bets offered by the platform, as well as the re-betting of winnings. Those aside, PlayNow.com receives an average deposit of $460 over those two months for each user who signs up before December 31st. The SIGA statement said the average value of deposits made by users was $67. In the two-month period, 55,000 deposits were made, totalling $3.7 million. The balance after the payout of the winnings is that the platform has earned $1.6 million.

"A lot of our players, when it's a small amount, $50, $75, they're just going to keep cycling that money through the system and it just gets bet again," Bellegarde stated, adding "typically, people cash out when they have a substantial win".

Half of the revenue generated by PlayNow.com will be credited to First Nations communities, with the other half going to the Saskatchewan government, according to a 2021 agreement. Director Bellegarde stated that they were very happy with this fact and admitted that they did not know what to expect, as this was a completely new product for the province.

iGaming or Sports Betting?

So, what is more popular in Saskatchewan, casino gaming or sports betting? According to the director of PlayNow.com, of the $31.8 million wagered in November and December, $30.6 million was from eCasino gambling, and only $1.2 million was from sports betting.

"One of the things that surprised me a little bit is that sports is not as big of a driver for net win as the slot machines," Bellegarde said. He explained that his expectations were different because of the scale of sports advertising campaigns: "The reality is that sports makes up less than five per cent of our net win". The net win is calculated by subtracting the sums paid to users from the total bet amount.

Bellegarde analyzed the research conducted by SIGA and concluded that, in general, sports betting has roughly the same return across the country. In his view, this is due to the fact that sports betting has "no stigma", while there is still "a bit of a social stigma" around eCasino and slot machines.

"People are more comfortable with the idea of betting on sports," he added. "So, you acquire people through sports betting promotions and then hope that they try out the eCasino and enjoy that." Bellegarde pointed out that he thinks the goal of all “grеy market” websites that have sportsbooks is to get people to make 1-2 sports bets and after that to decide to check out the casino.

The president and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, Paul Burns, explained that sports betting on an event does not bring much to the operators. "So, what you get is a knowledgeable sports fan, a fan of a certain sport or certain team, they can bet just on that game or just on that sport", he claimed.

We recall that in Canada, sports betting on single events was legalized in 2021. This happened in an attempt to divert the huge sums of money that Canadians spend annually on offshore gambling websites to licensed and regulated operators, through which this money accumulates in the public coffers treasury and to spend on beneficial community initiatives.

The Effect of Connor Bedard

In view of the revenue and number of registered users noted on the PlayNow.com platform, Paul Burns concluded that it was a "great start" and a "tremendous success". He said that: "We now have a licensed, regulated product for the people of Saskatchewan that didn't exist".

According to SIGA statistics, in November and December, the average sports bet was $30. 47% of all sports wagers were "live bets", which means they were made during the game itself. As for which sports have brought the most net profit to the platform, in descending order they are NFL football, soccer, tennis, and basketball. As expected, the sports for which the most bets are made are hockey, NFL, basketball, and soccer.

What then is this Connor Bedard effect? Bellegarde explained that early on, the NFL was the leading sport in terms of the number of bets placed, but the performance of Canada's World Junior Hockey Championship team and especially Connor Bedard has changed that. Thus, in November and December, hockey bets are approximately 15,500, while NFL bets are under 15,000. The numbers for the growth of the online gaming industry in the province of Saskatchewan speak for themselves. The change is big, and only two months after the alternative to offshore sites that do not obey regulatory standards - PlayNow.com officially became available to residents of this Canadian province.

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Originally from Las Vegas Nevada, Kaz is our Live Casino correspondent and resident photographer. She has her fingers on the pulse of casino gaming, entertainment, and business. When she’s not writing about casinos you can usually find her playing blackjack and poker at any of the top casinos in Toronto, where she has become quite a force on the Pro-Am tournament circuits.