While legality issues surrounding online gaming continue to swirl around the world, Canada has just opened up its first government sanctioned online casino. It is the first government in North America to approve an online casino operation, citing financial shortfalls as justification for setting up shop and hopefully enriching government coffers. Can Canada’s online casino compete with the myriad of other gaming sites on the web, all which accept Canadian players (except for Rival powered casinos)? Only time will tell.
So what’s the new site and most of all, is it really legal in Canada? The answer to those questions: www.playnow.com and YES, it is indeed legal for Canadian citizens to enjoy casino games at this site. Caveat Emptor: This is the ONLY site sanctioned by the Canadian government. All other internet casinos, poker rooms, and sportsbooks located elsewhere are still illegal. Deposit options are currently limited, with only Mastercard and Visa being accepted. All the same, this is a momentous step for people in North America who have long patronized online casinos, hoping that eventually either the USA or Canada would legalize online gaming for good. One’s in the bag, and now it’s up to the USA to deliberate more closely about online casinos, sportsbooks, and poker rooms.
With www.playnow.com in action, a few other issues have come to light, especially with respect to social responsibility and gambling. Some opponents cite studies which concluded that online gaming is more addictive than offline gaming, with 10% of players online getting hooked, versus 5% offline in real casinos. It should be noted, however, that this study is older and not necessarily current. Additionally, it was conducted in the UK, which has traditionally had much more open laws in terms of online gaming. The prudent thing for Canada would be to commission its own study, running parallel to the operation of the new online casino.
Another complaint is that a government sanctioned operation might lull customers into trusting the casino “too much”. In essence, players might feel more comfortable about blowing through their credit card limits knowing that the casino is supported by law, opposed to offshore casinos which typically peg first time casino players to a low velocity limit, in order to keep their credit card processors functioning.
The formal opening of www.playnow.com also came with new higher limit action, allowing players to deposit up to $9,999 a week, an enormous increase above what was initially proposed. Although the average Canadian may not have this kind of money on hand, higher limits do suggest that all but the most well off could easily stretch their credit limits in one week of compulsive gambling. As a result, the government may have to adopt procedures similar to offshore operations to make sure people play responsibly.
Does this mean offshore operations will go out of business? Well, suffice to say, while there are probably a large number of players lining up to play at www.playnow.com, there are probably an equal or greater number who will continue to patronize existing online casinos. The Canadian government is completely new to online gambling, and it lacks the experience, customer retention programs, and bonus incentives thrown at players by offshore gaming shops. Therefore, the most likely scenario will be a new healthy competition between legal and illegal online casinos, with the legal casinos slowly attracting larger player numbers should the government decide to clamp down on “out-of-town” internet gaming.
Ultimately, Canada concludes that responsible gaming starts with the individual player. The new casino website has plenty of links to problem gambling resources, making it clear that the government wants to operate a fair, transparent, and most importantly safe operation for its citizens. This is essentially a new “tax”, on top of any existing income and sales taxes collected by government. Therefore, the government must be sure to cover its rear end, so that levying new taxes vis a vi online gaming doesn’t take advantage of people.
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