Thanks to the launch of PlayNow.com, Saskatchewan now has its first legal online gaming platform. The service launched in the prairie province on of Nov.3.
In total, 500-plus casino games alongside a full suite of sports betting options are available for punters. That includes single-game betting which has become a hot ticket item since its legalization on August 27, 2021.
But expansion plans are already on the horizon. PlayNow says it will introduce a live casino and poker products come 2023.
Altogether, the province is expecting $60 million in revenue within four years.
That has SaskGaming President and CEO Susan Flett ecstatic.
“Today is a historic day for casino gaming and entertainment in Saskatchewan,” she said in a release. “PlayNow.com will change the gaming industry as we know it and I want to extend my appreciation to BCLC and SIGA in helping to make this launch a reality.”
PlayNow a collaborative effort between multiple groups
Despite launching in Saskatchewan, PlayNow is actually a British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) platform. Manitoba and B.C., already use it. Thus, Saskatchewan is now the third province under the service.
Regardless, its implementation was a team effort.
Consider Sask. Gaming manages the platform while the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) is the operator. Regulating the entire operation is the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority.
However, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations is the overarching driving force.
That’s because in Sept. 2021, FSIN and the province of Saskatchewan entered into a “first-of-its-kind agreement.” The deal – an amendment to their previously standing Gaming Framework Agreement – helped establish the legal framework for PlayNow, essentially kickstarting the chain of events.
Province, FSIN to split revenue 50/50
To that end, the revamped deal ensured a 50/50 revenue split between The Federation and the province.
Thus, under the agreement, First Nations communities receive half of PlayNow’s profits. Economic and social development, justice, recreation and health programs are some of the top priorities.
In total, The Federation represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan – a thought not lost on FSIN chief Bobby Cameron.
“This historical partnership, is the first of its kind, with a First Nations operator for online gaming with revenue sharing between First Nations and the province,” he said.
“This will provide many economic benefits to the residents of the province and our First Nations communities.”
Meanwhile, the other half of PlayNow’s profits will go back into the province of Saskatchewan with infrastructure and health care being prioritized.
SIGA president and CEO Zane Hansen said:
“Similar to the existing brick-and-mortar casinos in the province, all net proceeds from the Playnow.com site are reinvested back into Saskatchewan.”
BCLC’s PlayNow chosen for responsible gambling features
In June 2022, SIGA appointed BCLC as its gambling website’s developer.
At the time of the announcement, the gaming industry was undergoing a wave of change. Consider the Ontario online casino market was exploding with popularity at the time. Meanwhile, the decriminalization of single-event wagering had completely revolutionized the Canadian sports betting landscape.
One unfortunate outcome of that, however, was what many deemed “excessive advertisements” as multiple operators tried to cash in on the gold rush.
To that end, Saskatchewan says PlayNow’s responsible gambling features were critical to its selection.
PlayNow features money and time limits, GameSense advisors for players
Consider the platform contains money and time limits as well as mandated breaks by locking player’s accounts for 24 hours – 14 days.
Its biggest draw, however, are its dedicated player-health specialists – known as GameSense Advisors. These consultants are available via phone and live chat and are solely in place to answer gambling-related questions.
PlayNow states it is one of the few gambling websites in the world to offer such a service to players.
Pat Davis, BCLC president and CEO, said it is a good fit.
“BCLC is thrilled to help bring legal, online regulated gambling to Saskatchewan, in line with our social purpose to generate win-wins for the greater good,” Davis said. “We would like to thank our partners at SIGA and SaskGaming for their collaboration in bringing our safe, secure and industry-leading PlayNow.com platform to the province of Saskatchewan.”
PlayNow partners with CFL’s Saskatchewan Rough Riders
Not one to waste time, PlayNow has already begun its promotional tour across the province.
For starters, the website has partnered with the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders in a sponsorship deal.
This year’s Grey Cup will be held in Regina, SK on Nov.20, 2022 – making the partnership timelier than ever. Granted, the home team has already been eliminated from contention, but in-stadium promotions of PlayNow will still be present.
In anticipation of the website’s launch, the Riders also began wearing PlayNow logos on their jerseys on Oct. 22.
Following political pressure, PlayNow emerges
Despite the celebratory mode, PlayNow’s journey to Saskatchewan wasn’t always so jovial.
Consider it was only half-a-year ago that local politicians condemned the government for failing to capitalize on the decriminalization of single-event betting.
Amongst the loudest critics was Saskatoon-Grasswood MP Kevin Waugh.
The politician called the province “a loser.” According to him, Saskatchewan needed a legal online gambling space much faster.
“This thing was passed last June (Bill C-218). Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming knew this was on the agenda. They should have watched it go through the process. There is no question Saskatchewan dropped the ball.”
At the time punters could still bet in Saskatchewan. But it was through Sport Select.
That only added to Waugh’s frustration. He called their odds “horrible.”
Regardless, fast forward to Nov.2 and Waugh’s Twitter shows a much different reality.