Legislative Effort Would Create Monopoly For Loto Quebec

Quebec Eyes Online Gambling Ban For ‘Non-Government Sites’

Quebec new online gambling ban
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The Canadian province of Quebec is considering a bill that would ban online gambling sites that are not run by the government.

That provision, should it become law, seemingly applies to a variety of online gambling and poker sites that currently operate in Quebec. That includes PokerStars, which is operated by Quebec-based Amaya.

The bill was first reported by the Toronto Star.

What the online gambling provision says

The bill basically calls for ISPs to stop Quebec citizens from accessing any sort of online gaming site. Here is the summary from the bill:

To monitor online gambling, the Consumer Protection Act is amended to require Internet service providers to block access to illegal gambling sites entered on a list drawn up by the Société des loteries du Québec, which must report to the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux if service providers fail to comply with the Act. The Régie will be responsible for informing service providers of their non-compliance, and the president and chief executive officer of the Société or a person the latter designates is granted investigation powers to ensure compliance.

You can see and track Bill No. 74 here.

So what’s the problem with the online gambling ban?

Some say the bil violates the concept of net neutrality; from the aforementioned Toronto Sun report:

Critics say the Internet-censoring legislation — unprecedented in Canada — is a way for Quebec’s state-owned gambling authority to block competition and could lead to governments across the country deciding what citizens can and can’t view online. …

“I think the (Quebec) government doesn’t understand the Internet and frankly doesn’t understand the importance of an open and free Internet,” said the University of Ottawa’s Michael Geist, a renowned online-law expert.

The bill, if it becomes law, would likely be challenged under federal communications law, according to the report.

The Sun also notes that part of the motivation of the bill is that the government-run Loto-Quebec is losing marketshare to non-government sites.

What does all that mean for PokerStars?

As PokerStars is not run by the government, the bill would certainly affect their business in the province. Things are complicated further for PokerStars’ as its parent company, Amaya, is headquartered in Montreal.

Would Amaya face further impacts as a company offering online gambling in a jurisdiction that is no longer friendly to it? The bill simply accounts for blocking access of players to sites like PokerStars, so it’s not clear that Amaya would have to uproot its operation.

The progress of the bill also comes as Quebec’s Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) has charged Amaya CEO David Baazov with insider trading allegations. Baazov stepped down from his post, temporarily, last week.

Daily fantasy impacted?

Another open question: Would daily fantasy sports be impacted by the bill?

Canada, unlike its neighbors to the south in the U.S., has had little interest in considering the legality of DFS or legislating it.

Still, whether DFS would come under the purview of the Quebec bill seems to be an open question. Currently, almost all DFS sites take customers from Canada, although at least a few do not serve Quebec.

Rob Crandall / Shutterstock.com

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Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. He has played poker recreationally for his entire adult life and has written about poker since 2008.