The Canadian province of Saskatchewan recently launched its first government-sanctioned online gaming platform on PlayNow.com. In two months of operations, the website turned over $31.8 million in wagers with the vast majority of action happening in the online casino and only about 5% on sports betting..
Saskatchewan has a total population of about 1.2 million. According to 2021 Census data, Saskatchewan’s median income in 2020 was the second highest among all provinces. There were 844,920 income earners in 2020 – 427,895 of them were women, and 417,025 were men.
The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) was granted exclusive rights to offer online gambling in the province. In early November, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) launched an online casino and single-event sports book in the province with the Playnow URL. The website uses geolocation data from web browsers to determine where a player is located and delivers the proper site for their locale.
Over 8,000 New Customers in 2 Months
According to a report from the public broadcasting corporation CBC.ca, SIGA saw betting rise from about $14.8m in November to $17m in December. By the end of last year, the site had 8,015 registered users in the province.
Doing the numbers shows the average player turned over just under $4,000 in bets over the first two months of operations. This number includes not only the churn of rebetting wins or parts of wins but also free bets, bonus funds, and other promotional considerations.
Michael Bellegarde, director of iGaming at SIGA broke the numbers down further to reveal that the average player deposited about $460 over the course of November and December with the average deposit being $67 at a time.
So, all told, over two months there were about 55,000 individual deposits for total incoming transactions of $3.7 million.
The hold was impressive at $1.6m or about 43.2% after winnings were paid out.
“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,” said Bellegarde.
“Typically, people cash out when they have a substantial win.”
First Nations communities are entitled to 50% of the winnings with the balance going to the government in Regina. The provincial take is also used for good causes.
Bellegarde was happy with the results as nobody quite knew what to expect from the nascent online gambling site.
“We’re quite pleased,” he said. “We weren’t exactly sure what to expect, being a new product to the province. So we’re very happy.”
Sports Betting Accounted for 1/20th of the Gambling Turnover
Sportsbetting accounted for only about $1.2m of the $31.8m turnover on the betting site with the lion’s share attributed mostly to slots and table games – which are the two biggest drivers for online casinos worldwide.
“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.
“When you see all the money that’s being invested by other companies into sports advertising, you would think that there’s a lot of money there. The reality is that sports makes up less than five percent of our net win.”
SIGA’s research shows that online sports betting all across Canada experience similar returns to those noted by Bellegarde.
He told CBC journalist, Kelly Provost: “Sports betting is kind of the betting that doesn’t have a stigma to it, right?” But he indicated that slot machines and other online casino gambling still have “a bit of a social stigma” around them.
“People are more comfortable with the idea of betting on sports,” Bellegarde said. “So you acquire people through sports betting promotions and then hope that they try out the eCasino and enjoy that.”
He mentioned ‘gray market sites’, which usually refer to casinos licensed offshore for international play in markets that don’t outlaw consumer choice in online game providers. He noted that a lot of them offer sports betting but that they really want people to stay for the casino even if they first visit for the sports.
Sports betting has virtually exploded across the American internet landscape with each state that allows it regulating its own action. While there are nearly 40 states that now allow sports betting, only a few yet offer online casino gambling – and as it is in Canada, each state (province) licenses and regulates gambling within its own borders.
Canadian Gaming Association president and CEO, Paul Burns said that single-event sports betting doesn’t usually make much money for online platforms.
After years of false starts nationally at the provincial and territorial level, in 2021 single-event sports betting was finally legalized. Authorities reasoned that it would divert billions of dollars in the annual flight of capital back from gray markets and outright illegal offshore sports betting sites to regional caretakers; if captured, the money could be put to good use by supporting communities and bolstering government revenues.
The average sports bet in Saskatchewan at Playnow was $30 over the last two months ending December 31 and nearly 50% of bets were placed on live games, as the action was happening rather than as predictive bets.
Most Bets Placed on Hockey
In descending order of net win for the casino, bets were made on NFL football, soccer, tennis, and basketball. However, the average hockey bet must have been smaller or the gamblers were more capable because the greatest number of bets were on the national game followed by NFL football, basketball, and finally soccer.
NFL betting was leading the volume wars until Connor Bedard captured the nation’s attention at the World Junior Hockey Championship. The race was a barn burner with Team Canada (hockey) finally amassing about 15,500 individual bets versus about 15,000 placed on American football games.
Source: Sask. residents bet almost $32M in first 2 months of regulated gaming website, CBC.ca, January 23, 2023
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