Uncertain future for Online Gambling in Quebec

Online Gambling Quebec: Looking at the bigger picture, and the tall hurdles ahead.

As things stand now, online gambling is perfectly acceptable in Quebec. Residents can place an array of wagers at the provincially regulated EspaceJeux.com. Alternatively, they can traverse cyberspace to bet with hundreds of internationally regulated operators. But that’s not the end-game plan.

The Plan for Online Gambling Quebec

Plan for Online Gambling QuebecThe bigger picture, in Quebec’s eyes, is to double the value of online gambling. In its annual report and strategic plan, released in September, Loto-Quebec boasted iGaming revenue of $85.9 million, up nearly 30% from the previous fiscal year. iGaming accounted for 1.9% of total gambling revenue. Their goal is to increase that number to 3.8% by 2020.

Data shows EspaceJeux.com attracted over 273k unique visitors in August 2017 alone. That’s more than 2x the unique visitors reported by the world’s largest online gaming site, PokerStars, which came in at 107k, and more than 5x the unique visitors of the UK’s Bet365 sportsbook, reported at 52k.

Clearly, Loto-Quebec is making excellent progress. However, a few hurdles will need to be overcome to reach their ultimate goal.

Quebec Still Intent On IP Blocking

Quebec has made it very clear that they don’t want offshore websites accessing their players. In May 2016, the province passed Bill 74, which included the enforcement of an IP block against international gambling sites. That piece of legislation hasn’t gone into effect, due to a multitude of legal challenges, including one from the nation’s federal communications authority, CWTA.

As a result, the plan to require ISPs to block access to known offshore gambling websites is on mandatory hold. The Quebec Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case in March 2018. And if that goes awry, the province has every intention of taking the matter all the way to Canada’s Supreme Court.

Even if Quebec succeeds on this front, it could be years before the IP block ever comes into effect, especially if the Supreme Court gets involved. That won’t leave much time, if any, to meet their revenue goals for 2020. That goal will be near impossible if resident continue to access offshore gaming sites.

Licensing Of International Operators

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. For Quebec to realize the true value of the online gambling industry, it must open its doors to outside operators. Instead of shutting them out, Quebec should be welcoming them, collecting licensing fees and taxes along the way, mimicking the phenomenal success of the UK.

It would seem the province is finally heeding that call—or at least considering the possibilities. Toronto-based Stars Group (formerly Amaya, owner of PokerStars), has been touted as one of the companies Loto-Quebec may allow to present iGaming services through its provincial gaming website.

It’s not exactly the same as licensing and taxing international operators, but it is a start. And last week’s annual report indicated that Loto-Quebec may consider welcoming other operators into the fold as well. Not just anyone, though. The regulator says to be so privileged, an operator “will have to meet our high standards, particularly with respect to integrity and responsible gambling.”

If the province were to take that extra step, allowing international operators to obtain a license to access the market, it would do wonders for their revenue stream. It would also increase their chances of winning the case to block unlicensed websites. The courts would see that Quebec is not just trying to increase revenue by eliminating competition, but protecting consumers, as they’ve always claimed.

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