Canada May Be Restricting Online Gambling Sites

At the same time the United States courts are ruling to increase the opportunities for online casinos, Canada may be headed in the other direction. Canada generated $1.73 billion in 2017 for their gambling industry. Online betting has been Legal in Canada provided the site was not physically located in the country. The only companies licensed to operate in these jurisdictions are PlayOLG and Espacejeux. Legislators are concerned foreign websites will lead to lost tax revenue. Bill 74 passed through the Quebec legislature in 2016 blocking international online casino operators.

Quebec’s provincial gambling body is Loto-Quebec and operates EspaceJeux.com. All players at this online casino must reside in Quebec. All profits go to the provincial government. Prior to 2016, Loto-Quebec was on the record as saying their cut was too large. This means their RTP or return to player was substantially lower than casinos based internationally. Their growth was not fast enough to sustain providing players with easy options and an increased chance of winning. EspaceJeux has increased their RTP but are falling short of their profit goals. International competition is fierce and provides excellent RTP’s and welcome bonuses. Quebec’s answer was to force the ISP’s to block these websites to eliminate the competition.

Quebec Bill 74 contains a list of more than 2,000 gambling websites to block. International online casinos are to be offered a partnership with EspaceJeux where registered players will be directed to these casinos. A cut of the revenues and the customer information will be maintained by Loto-Quebec. The candidates for approval are LeoVegas, Casino.com and PokerStars. The law provides numerous months to reach this goal. The responsibility for blocking the other online casinos falls to the biggest corporations in Canada. They are not interested in this responsibility because they believe these actions may lead to the government restricting free speech.

A formal complaint was filed by the ISP consortium and the CWTA or the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association with the CRTC. The CRTC governs the national telecommunications and has the only legal jurisdiction. They stated the law was unconstitutional and other than the Government of Canada, they were the only one with jurisdiction. They are waiting for the decision of the court. A lawsuit was filed by the CWTA to block the law from being implemented in the Quebec Superior Court. The case is delayed with a ruling possible beginning in March of 2018. The belief is the law will be rejected due to constitutional issues but will reach the Supreme Court.

If Bill 74 passes, it will be the first time residents are restricted regarding their internet viewing by the provincial government. The residents of Quebec would not be able to play on international poker and casino sites unless licensed by Loto-Quebec and EspaceJeux. This would open the door for other provinces to restrict the free internet. Canada has a very restrictive and popular online gambling market. It is possible they may go from one of the world’s most open societies to restricting the freedom of the internet and free speech.