2013 was the first year of provincially regulated online gambling in Manitoba, which was less successful than initially forecast. While other provinces, including Ontario, are still preparing their own mandated online casinos, the year end summary in Manitoba could alter those plans.
The Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation licensed the PlayNow.com online casino domain from the BCLC in British Columbia. PlayNow.com was launched by the BCLC in 2010, and added a viable stream of $30 million in revenue for the west coast province.
Expectations were high for PlayNow to be Manitoba’s successful launch into online gambling. Manitoba predicted the site would yield net revenue of $1.5 million at the end of the first year, and would exceed $17 million annually by 2018.
But after a six-month period ending September 30, net revenues from PlayNow.com yielded only $300,000 after operating expenses. Due to the significant financial setback, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries is unlikely to release the details of the site’s annual operations.
Andrea Kowal, a spokesperson for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, believes part of the reason for PlayNow’s poor return was due to unexpected delays. When the site went live, Kowal says players were supposed to have access to bingo games as well as have the option of purchasing lottery tickets online.
But putting those services live took longer than expected, and Kowal believes those delays cost the site significant amounts of revenue.
“It’s a very, very competitive market and whether we entered it late or not, the fact is there are choices customers are always going to make in any sort of commerce, including e-commerce.”
A positive trend noted by Kowal is that the number of registered PlayNow users grew from 4,000 to 9,000 within those six months. If registrations continue to grow in 2014, PlayNow.com could become the success Manitoba predicted. Kowal says Manitobans currently spend around $37 million betting online, and tapping into that market would provide PlayNow the turnaround the province requires.