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Quebec’s Move against Foreign Gambling Sites Sparks Protests
- February 17, 2016 By Oliver Young -
In November 2015 the Quebec provincial government announced its plans to block unlicensed online gambling operators that are offering their services and products to Canadian people. However, the move sparked protests from the critics who see it as a censorship of the Internet.
Earlier today, the same subject came under fire from the Consumers Union that has reportedly sent a letter to the government calling for urgency around Bill 74 that seeks to make amendments to the Consumer Protection Act. The local publication in Quebec Silver Times reports on the issue.
Critics believe that the reason why the provincial government in Quebec is highly motivated to ban offshore online gambling operators is because it wants to protect its own gambling site Espacejeux from competition. They also add that this has less to do with protecting players; instead the government wants to protect its own underperforming site.
Despite the fact that the gambling revenue of Espacejeux rose to about 30% over two years, people in Quebec seem to favor foreign gambling operators more. This is partially because the gambling monopoly holds a 20% market share.
The local publication supports the opinions of the critics and asks where the emergency is. The article reads with the move the local government wants to protect the incomes of Loto-Québec whose revenue is falling due to the competition from illegal gambling sites. And this obviously undermines the venue in Quebec.
The opinion of law professor Michael Geist, who teaches in the University of Ottawa, is also quoted by the publication. Geist has said many times that the path the local government is taking will likely set dangerous precedents when it starts to interfere with the web.
Sections of the omnibus Bill 74 are also flagged, in particular, the ones that make provision for Loto-Québec to sign partnerships with several private operators offering their gaming content via the entire Espacejeux platform. Players that want to visit such sites must first register on Espacejeux and then access the games.
Are Offshore Gambling Websites Indeed Illegal?
This question was also tackled by the publication. Silver Times says that according to the Criminal Code of Canada only provinces are allowed to establish and run online gambling websites, but the law is not clear when it comes to the online gambling activities of foreign operators. Therefore, a legislation that addresses this issue is required.
The developments on the subject are at the peak of the Quebec’s initiative which started two years ago when a government group began exploring ways to address the online gambling subject in the state. In addition, the telecommunications industry expressed their worries about the idea to institute ISP blocking referring to the national Telecommunications Act, Article 36, which reads that the industry is forbidden to interfere or influence the content on the Internet.