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Who Would Have Thought? PlayNow Competes Poorly With Free Market Online Casinos. Oh, My!

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At PlayNow, the one online casino run jointly by British Columbia and Manitoba, I couldn’t find any information on the homepage about banking and I also found no reference to payout percentages.  These are two issues which I believe are critical (among others) in choosing the right online casino. One of my favourite online casinos – All Slots Casino – makes their payout percentages known to the public with a link right on their front page. Nothing to hide. And a casino that hides this information….? What are we to conclude?

I had sincerely thought about writing a supportive article about PlayNow, but I quickly came to the conclusion that the thousands of free market online casinos that must compete with each other for your online gaming patronage, benefit greatly from the competition and, as a result, all online gamers benefit from the competition as well.  There are positives at PlayNow but these two main failings (and some relatively lesser ones) disturbed me when I first started looking into PlayNow, continue to disturb me, and ultimately prevent me from writing favourably about PlayNow in our main bannerhead.

Flexibility is to Government as Ballet is to Elephants

It seems that for the people who run PlayNow, the fears average online gamers have about the flexibility of online gaming are not a top level priority.  Way down at the bottom I did see a link to “account security”.  There I read that all transactions are safe behind a sophisticated SSL encryption firewall, such as the kind used by all reputable free market online casinos.  I found some common sense pieces of advice such as using different passwords for each account, not opening suspicious emails, and so on.  So, after some searching I found a few clear and sensible references to security.

Privacy in Banking at PlayNow

But based on the lack of information about actual banking, meaning depositing and withdrawing, it appears obvious that the Provinces want to know exactly what you’re doing when you deposit and withdraw and as a result offer only the most common depositing and withdrawing methods such as credit and debit cards.  Whereas free market online casinos may offer as many as twenty banking options, government controlled online casinos offer the few that the government can access most easily.  If you want to gamble online in British Columbia and Manitoba and you want to gamble through the Provinces’ own online casino, you have to accept that the governments will know everything you do at the casino because they can follow the financial trail you leave.  If you want to use a money order or an ewallet, you may not be able to deposit at PlayNow.

Privacy Just Because You Want It

I found a very disturbing euphemistic sentence under the section on outside cookies:

“In order to obtain better insight about the use of PlayNow.com, BCLC enables conversion tracking cookies to be placed on PlayNow.com by Google.”

Am I the only one who thinks that “better insight” means “keeping track of you”?

If you want to know Why? or What is a conversion tracking cookie? or Why are they letting Google do this?, you have to research further because PlayNow doesn’t openly ask and answer these questions on their homepage.

I also couldn’t find information about how each wager is recorded, how players can keep track of their accounts in real time, and how the casino handles play through requirements.  Perhaps PlayNow simply does not have these essential programs that all top of the line free market online casinos do have.

Payout Percentages: Who Knows?

A free market online casino regularly submits data to eCogra, or a similar independent watchdog organization, to verify that the Random Number Generator (RNG) is in good working order.  eCogra also calculates the payout percentage for the previous period.  At free market online casinos, the payout percentages are usually in the 95-96% range.  At government run online casinos, the payout percentage is generally in the 85% range.  We don’t want to speculate on exactly what happens to the extra money.  Of course, some goes to charities.  This is a good thing but we don’t know up front how much is left to go to good charities after the government employees have taken their cut.

Giving Back Before or After Taking From?

My friend Susan Clark writes about charitable bingo at bingo centres.  She plays bingo regularly and knows each time which charitable organization is set to receive the profits from that night’s bingo set.  Such is not the case at PlayNow.  We have no idea how much money is siphoned off for the luxuries that obtain to government workers.  As Susan might say, the Pee Wee Hockey or Cystic Fibrosis Society that sponsors a bingo fund raising event also siphon off some money for normal expenses.  It would be truly scandalous if the director of Pee Wee Hockey or the Young Girls’ Glee Club were going to a conference, flying business class, staying at an exclusive hotel, and eating at exclusive restaurants.  Can we be sure this is not the case with PlayNow?

Don’t Try to Get Customer Service When they’re All Sleeping

PlayNow has service hours for telephone and live chat support.  This is genuinely unacceptable as many gamers use online gaming as a way to pass the time late at night either when they can’t sleep or for any other reason.  These players also may experience major or minor problems in the wee hours but the telephone line and chat line are “closed for the night”: “call during regular office hours, please”.  Can anyone say “government run online casino?”  Is there a free market online casino that does not have 24/7 support?  Most have already gone to 365 service as well, thus making themselves available to players even on Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter Sunday.

Games at PlayNow

I’ve pretty much exhausted my space so I’ll revisit the comparison between PlayNow and free market online casinos generally in a discussion of the games offered at both.

PlayNow as an Alternative to Free Market Online Casinos

I did not intend to turn you away from PlayNow as an alternative to the better free market online casinos.  I merely sought to set the record straight: as good as PlayNow is, it has weaknesses that may or may not be important to any one online gamer but are surely important to online gamers as a cohort.  This friendly criticism should open the eyes of the people who run PlayNow, that the free market online casinos are still highly desirable venues for the average online gamer, and then some!

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I’m Stan Evans from the great province of Saskatchewan. I was named after my father’s favourite hockey player, Stan Mikita. I can say that I’m grateful he didn’t name me Stanislaw! I work very hard as a CPA here in Regina. I’m also very busy before and after work with my wife, Meghan, and our two young lads. Sometimes, often actually, I like to relax with a few minutes of online casino gambling. I’m not keen on the euphemism “gaming” which I think should be reserved for actual gaming without money involved. I gamble. Always small amounts. I belong to several online casinos. I like to look around a casino to see what they have. I like to play many different kinds of games online. I use the computer to play silly games with Jason. I’m grateful to gamingpost.ca for giving me the chance to write about online casinos. I’ll dip my toes into the subject in my first few columns just to see how much ground I can cover in the 1000 or so words they are giving me each week.