Loto Quebec, Bill 74, and the Liberty of the Internet

Loto Quebec, Bill 74, and the Liberty of the Internet

If you take a look at the list of legal online casinos in Quebec, you’ll see that it’s extremely short. The list consists of one brand only – EspaceJeux, run by the local lottery operator Loto Quebec. The local gambling regulation, which is very restrictive with operators and permissive when it comes to players, only allows the local lottery to offer legal online gambling services to Quebecers – and the same is true for all other territories. This doesn’t stop players from fulfilling their gaming needs offshore, where they get more attractive offers, a wider game variety, and the same level of security and privacy. According to its most recent earnings report, EspaceJeux has a measly 25% market share in its home, a percentage that it seems desperate to increase. Unfortunately, it’s trying to do so through controversial means – like Bill 74.

Bill 74

Bill 74, introduced by Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao, would see the access to any “online gambling site whose operation is not authorized under Quebec law” blocked at an ISP level. Or, basically, any online gambling operation that’s not run by Loto Quebec, since it is the only company allowed to offer such services in the territory.

The initiative claims to be intended to protect the local consumers, to mitigate compulsive gambling in the province, apparently a public health issue here. But it was also clear about the benefits for the local budget: according to the document, such a block “would increase the dividend that Loto-Quebec pays to the government by $13.5 million in 2016-17 and $27 million a year thereafter,” Huffington Post writes. Which makes the intentions clear for most of us.

What offshores have over EspaceJeux?

EspaceJeux currently offers its players casino games, online poker, a few instant win games, bingo, and sports bets – in short, everything an offshore operator has. The main difference is of scale, though: compared to EspaceJeux, even the least-known offshore casino has a much larger variety of games, a much wider range of bonuses, and a much stronger mobile presence. Online casinos are entertainment venues that happen to involve real money, which makes offshores a much more attractive option at this time. And Bill 74 wold force them to play at an inferior destination, only because it is local.

Liberties and laws

Aside from being against the principle of a free market (although the very fact that gambling is a state monopoly already is), Bill 74 would contravene the principle of net neutrality. The 1993 Telecommunications Act states that “Except where the Commission (the CRTC) approves otherwise, a Canadian carrier shall not control the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public”.

The right way to do things would be to embrace the competition, break the gambling monopoly, and start allowing offshore operators to obtain gambling licenses in the province. Just like hundreds of other jurisdictions have proceeded over the course of the last two decades.

Categories: General

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