Will Quebec Online Casinos get a Boost from Reduction in VLTs?

Quebec Bar Slot MachinesThroughout history, we’ve learned that what the government takes away, we will find a way to get back. Prohibition of alcohol didn’t stop people from drinking. Making marijuana illegal didn’t stop people from smoking it. We merely found different ways to obtain these things.

In Quebec, the government has decided that limiting the number of slot machines, or video lottery terminals (VLTs), in low-income areas will help promote responsible gambling and reduce the rate of problem gambling among the lower classes of society. But how effective will this be when Quebec online casinos are readily available?

Online gambling isn’t even illegal. There are plenty of offshore gaming sites that invite Canadians to play for real money, and while politicians call them illegal, they aren’t the only Quebec online casinos accessible. The government actually runs its own, provincially-regulated internet gaming site, EspaceJeux.

Reducing Slots Won’t Stop Problem Gamblers

If officials actually believe lowering the number of slot machines in low-income areas is going to stifle the rate of game play, they’ve got another thing coming. Just because someone is classified as poor, doesn’t mean they don’t own a desktop or laptop computer, or a mobile device that’s perfectly capable of accessing Quebec online casinos whenever they wish. Not in today’s technological age.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the effort, or at least the end goal. Problem gambling is something that should be better monitored and regulated. I suppose, logically speaking, they’re doing all they can think of – short of criminalizing gambling altogether, which would have a very negative impact on the tax coffers, not to mention increase illegal gambling activities – to resolve the issue.

Finance Minister Explains ‘The Plan’

Quebec Finance Minister Carlos LeitaoFinance Minister Carlos Leitao explicated the plan as a New Years Resolution of sorts, in which Quebec will cut back on the total number of VLT licences in the province. He said areas with a high concentration of slot machines will be most effected, and those areas just so happen to be occupied with Quebec’s lowest income residents.

“Our government is determined to have responsible gaming on offer, fighting against compulsive gambling and preventing the outbreak of sites used for illegal gambling,” said Leitao, who oversees the VLTs provincial regulator, Loto-Quebec.

At present, there are about 12,000 slot machines in 2,000 locations – mostly bars – all across Quebec. Leitao said that, in two years time, that number should be reduced to under 10,000 VLTs.

At the same time, Quebec is instituting a new formula for VLT licencing. From here on out, there may be no more than 2 licenced slot machine operators within a 5,000-population radius. Likewise, there may only be 2 slot machines for every 1,000 inhabitants.

Furthermore, the government wants to transition the placement of VLTs out of bars, and into establishments like bowling alleys and pool halls; places he said “promote socialization and group entertainment.”

Plan Promotes Quebec Online Casinos, Organized Crime

Peter Sergakis, President of the Union of Quebec Bar Owners, disagrees with the plan entirely. Not only would a shift away from putting VLTs in bars hurt his own interests – he personally owns over a dozen bars with slots machines in the Montreal area – he says it will hurt the government’s bottom line.

“If the government makes $800 million with these machines, it goes to the public treasury. With that we pay for health, education, we pay for the police,” explained Sergakis. He also noted the impact it could have on organized crime, suggesting illegal activities would only increase, as would the patronage of unauthorized Quebec online casinos.

Leitao also recognized these potential problems, noting that the plan will ensure some slot machines are still accessible in all areas, so as to avoid pushing players towards remote gambling options or underground gambling dens.

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