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Canadian Provinces On-Lining Up

Prince Edward Island the latest to follow B.C. lead

Canadian Provinces On-Lining Up

Prince Edward Island Finance Minister Wes Sheridan has declared himself in favor of seeing the province follow in the footsteps of British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia in adopting regulated online gaming.

According to news agency AHN, Sheridan announced his viewpoint after the Atlantic Lottery Corporation told the government it would study its Playsphere website with an eye to providing online gaming. At present, Playsphere only offers interactive games.

ALC said the government of PEI would benefit by an estimated C$50 million annually from the addition of online gaming to the site. The province earned C$14.7 million from lottery games in 2009, a drop of C$3 million compared to 2008.

Canada has seen online fever spread from province to province in recent months. British Columbia was the first to introduce online gaming in July, but ran into a security glitch almost immediately. The site was halted and reworked, then re-launched in August. Ontario, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan are all said to be showing interest.

However, some industry observers see problems with the province-run models.

The Globe and Mail identifies one such critic: Eliot Jacobsen, who heads Certified Fair Gambling, a California-based company that audits online sites to make sure players are receiving the advertised return-to-player rates from online games.

Jacobsen, a former math professor, called the RTP percentages of slots at the B.C.-run website PlayNow “significantly worse” than those available at commercial, unlicensed sites. Most slots on the site reportedly return between 92 percent and 94 percent. “I would say 93 is the bottom for any online slot I have seen,” said Jacobsen.

In contrast, he said, commercial sites were offering RTP of between 95 percent and 97 percent, with some as high as 98. “I know people who wouldn’t put out a product that’s less than 97,” said Jacobsen.

The danger, according to Robert Williams, coordinator of the Alberta Gambling Research Institute at the University of Lethbridge, is that people who ordinarily wouldn’t be tempted to play slots online will start at the trusted government-run site and then discover better odds and better sign-up bonuses at the unregulated operators. The outcome, he fears, would be more addicts and less money for the province, which would be left to deal with the cost of increased addiction.

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