In 2010, BCLC online gambling site PlayNow.com became the first regulated online casino in North America. The software used by BCLC and Loto-Quebec for the Canadian Poker Network (CPN) is provided by GTECH G2 and has been operating for nearly 21 months. The player volumes are hovering in the area of 86 average users and a 24-hour peak of 162 users according to PokerScout, a site that monitors traffic of global online poker networks. With the current traffic, the CPN is ranked in 38th place, a far cry from 3rd place, but these figures include only two of the country’s provinces representing roughly 12.5 million people out of roughly 34.5 million or about 36%.
In its results for the financial year ending March 31 2012, BCLC said online poker was $8.8 million behind budget, although net income for its egaming site PlayNow.com was $24.8 million, a 288% year-on-year increase.
Currently, the Canadian Poker Network includes players from Quebec and British Columbia’s lottery sites. Graydon went on to say that he believes that once more provinces launch online gambling sites and begin to pool liquidity on the network, that CPN can become a worthy rival to the country’s dominant operator PokerStars.
“We will be very competitive with PokerStars, we have to be,” he said. “If we’re not, it’s not worth the investment. By getting added liquidity, if we add all of Canada up, we will likely end up being anywhere between the third and the fifth largest poker network in the world. You’ve got to fight, work hard at it, advertise, recruit and retain that customer relationship and do it very well, because your competitor is already doing it very well.”
Having agreed to a white label partnership with BCLC’s PlayNow.com back in April, Manitoba Lotteries will join the network once its online gaming offering goes live later this year.
The country’s largest and wealthiest province which also represents 39% of the overall Canadian population, Ontario, has announced that it will be issuing internet gaming licenses to operators in the province, which could include operators such as PokerStars and Party Poker. However, the OLG themselves could potentially become an online gaming operator. It is still unsure whether they are likely follow suit and join Quebec and BC in the Canadian Poker Network, a move that could make or break that network or make or break the OLG’s internet initiatives should they choose wrong, or possibly go down a separate path and work with a different software provider.
Graydon believes Ontario’s egaming offering could lead to “a domino effect” which sees other provinces decide to follow suit.
“I think Ontario’s arrival to this channel will be the tipping point and I’m hopeful other jurisdictions will look at it and say it’s probably time for us to get into that channel as well,” he said. “A lot of it is out of our control because other decisions need to be made by the political shareholders and that’s where the hold-up has been in most jurisdictions. We’re up to the challenge and I think we’ll have a very successful network, we do now and when you add that liquidity I think we’re going to have a very competitive offering.”
Judging from other country specific networks such as those in Italy and France whose traffic numbers place them among the top ten online poker networks worldwide, there is definitely growth potential for the CPN, but it would very much depend on countrywide regulation which deters unlicensed operators from entering the market. Another very important factor is offering a software that is better or at least competitive with that of nearest rivals and the ability to offer large tournament prize pools.