PlayNow — a life-saver or lemon?

By Ben Hamill - February 21 2016

The PlayNow casino offers online gamers in British Columbia a local, regulated gaming alternative that they can enjoy from the comfort of their own home. The PlayNow venue was created as a way for the British Columbia Lotteries and Gaming Corporation to compete with the highly successful free market online casinos. But does it really compete? Does it really offer BC residents a competitive alternative. We don’t think so.

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BCLC Heads (Partially) Into the 21st Century

The BCLC has always been proactive about expanding their lottery tickets and other casino products into cyberspace. In 2004 the BCLC was the first of the Canadian provincial lottery corporations to offer local players the possibility of playing online. From a games lobby that included a few simple games in 2004, BCLC has expanded and is today one of Canada’s biggest suppliers of online gaming. In some ways the PlayNow site is similar to the free market casinos which are also available to British Columbia players. In other ways however, PlayNow gamers experience frustrations and roadblocks that they don’t find in free market casino venues.

One of the main reasons that many BC gamblers continue to play at free market online casinos such as the Royal Vegas online casino involves the convenience factor. The BCLC PlayNow casino offers limited mobile options. It doesn’t support all of the main operating systems and it’s only available for individuals playing within British Columbia or in Manitoba. That means that, even if you have a PlayNow account you won’t be able to enjoy PlayNow casino entertainment if you’re located outside of the provincial boundaries.

On the other hand, almost every free market casino features a mobile platform that supports all of the top smartphone and tablet operating systems including iOS, Android and Blackberry devices. This means that players can click into their casino at any time and from any location and play at their leisure. It doesn’t matter whether they’re traveling in another province, or another country. They simply open their casino account via their mobile app and play whenever and from wherever they want.

In addition, the PlayNow mobile site is limited in the number of games that it offers. It doesn’t support the wider range of mobile games (over 100 at the best online/mobile casinos) that players can find at free market mobile casinos.

And when it comes to getting more play for your money, PlayNow patrons are also frustrated over the payout percentage at their site, which is approximately 50%. This is well below the free market sites’ payout percentage rate of approximately 97%. So for your same deposit, you’re going to get a lot more play time at a free market casino.

Banking Options — Or Lack Thereof

Sign-in for both PlayNow and free market online casino sites is free. Registering at a free market casino, such as the highly-ranked All Slots Casino is quick and easy: name, email address, a username and a unique password. You can sign up for the mobile casinos on your mobile device. If you want to play at PlayNow casino you’ll have to check to see whether your mobile operating system is supported.

To register at the BC PlayNow casino you must supply your BC address and phone number since you won’t be able to play online if you’re not physically present in British Columbia or Manitoba. For those of us who are a little skittish about having the government being too involved in our daily lives, this is a little too Orwellian. I don’t think the provincial government needs to know when, how and for how much I play at an online casino.

You must be 18 years of age to play online at free market casinos and 19 years of age to play BC PlayNow casino games.

When you’re playing at the free market online casino like the All Jackpots Casino you have multiple types of ebanking choices from which to choose. These include echecks, evouchers, ewallets, direct deposits and wire transfers from your local Canadian bank account as well as credit and debit cards. These digital banking alternatives allow you to facilitate your gaming deposits and withdraw your wins back into your account at your leisure. If you choose to use an ewallet or an evoucher for your casino activities you can separate your casino banking activities from the financial transactions that you facilitate through your local BC bank account. This can come in handy if, for instance, you want to separate your casino budget from your household or business transactions. If you play at the free market casino you have that option.

When you play at PlayNow your banking alternatives are more limited. PlayNow accepts INTERAC payments but that service is not offered to all banking customers in British Columbia. The only other option is to pay is through your financial institution. Via your financial institution’s telephone bill payment service you can transfer funds to and from your PlayNow account. This service is available online and by phone. Of course, the PlayNow site is a quasi-government site and as such, there is always the chance that your gaming activities will be monitored, which doesn’t happen at a free market casino site.

Where are the Promotions?

Casino promotions at the free market casinos are generous, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential bonus credits, points and casino cash given away every day. New players are welcomed into free market casinos with a Welcome Bonus that’s worth thousands of dollars in match bonus gaming credits distributed during the player’s first week.

All free market players collect Loyalty Points which are based on the games that they play, the amount of deposits that they make and the value of their deposits. As Loyalty Points accrue each individual is invited to redeem his points for casino give-aways. Players can redeem a lower number of points for a smaller prize or allow their points to accumulate and then redeem them for a big gift.

The freemarket online casino also invites gamers to participate in monthly promotions and contests with draws and other swag being given away almost every day.

PlayNow gamers might ask themselves “where are the bonuses?” The PlayNow casino offers a few promotions, including a $100 sign-up bonus and a 2-in-1 Double Your Fun Bonus. But the PlayNow bonuses really don’t match up to the other online casinos where players can be awarded with $1000’s in bonuses rather than $100’s in bonuses at PlayNow.


Both the free market casinos and the PlayNow casino offer a wide selection of games. The PlayNow site’s games are powered by the WMS brand while many free market casinos prefer the Microgaming brand which has been powering online casinos since the inception of online gaming in 1994.

So where does PlayNow fall on the scale of “life-saver or lemon”? Too many lemons for me – how about you?

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