In the last few years, online gambling in Quebec has undergone significant transformation. With the increasing popularity of online casinos and betting platforms, many provinces in Canada have re-evaluated their stances on the industry. However, Quebec has been a unique case, reflecting its own set of cultural values and economic considerations.
Historically, the government of Quebec has had a tight grip on online gambling through Loto-Québec and its proprietary platform, Espacejeux. While other regions have seen a surge of offshore gambling websites, Quebec tried to bring them under the umbrella of regulation, attempting to mandate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block these offshore websites. This move was however challenged and declared unconstitutional by the Quebec Superior Court in 2018, putting a stop to those plans.
The endeavor represented Quebec’s attempt to centralize online gambling revenues and maintain the control within the province. For individual players, however, the legal repercussions of playing on offshore sites have historically been absent, resulting in a broad spectrum of choices for gaming enthusiasts.
Quebec’s current landscape in online gambling is an interesting interplay between the government’s aspirations and the private sector’s objectives. This dynamic was recently highlighted when the Quebec coalition made its proposal to alter the gambling landscape. In response, Loto-Quebec asserted their stance to maintain the status quo. Segev, an expert in the industry, mentioned during a panel discussion at the Canadian Gaming Summit in Toronto, “We saw the Quebec coalition make its proposal and, in response, we saw Loto-Quebec come back and say that they have no plans to change things.”
A significant driving factor for such decisions often boils down to economic factors. “I think Quebec too, culturally, is going to be concerned about the jobs piece,” Segev added. Indeed, the socio-economic implications of any changes to the online gambling sector cannot be underestimated.
Interestingly, while Loto-Quebec’s EspaceJeux does not encompass all online gambling in the province, its influence and success rate stand out. Segev pointed out, “EspaceJeux, while it doesn’t represent 100 percent of inbound handle or betting, is relatively more successful than PlayOLG was, and I understand that they’re doing even better than before.”
Peeking into the crystal ball for Quebec’s online gambling industry brings up more questions than answers. Lycka pointed out that although Quebec officials haven’t shown eagerness towards adopting an Ontario-like model, they might be gearing up to strengthen enforcement against grey-market operators. “Quebec is Quebec, we will respect the cultural idiosyncrasies, but at the very least, there have been certain rumors that the Quebec government may be inclined to clamp down on the existing offering,” he said.
This sentiment is echoed by Segev and Lycka’s discussion on the global shift towards stricter regulation. As companies like Entain pledge to operate only in regulated jurisdictions, it’s clear that the industry gravitates towards more structured environments. “Entain made a commitment all around the world to only take business from regulated jurisdictions, so in general we are supportive of provinces, states, countries regulating,” Segev said.
Quebec’s journey in the world of online gambling has been one marked by firm decisions, cultural nuances, and a keen eye on economic impact. The past had its attempts at consolidation, the present reflects a successful model with EspaceJeux, but the future? It seems to be treading towards a more regulated and enforcement-heavy scenario, albeit with Quebec’s unique flavor.
As more voices like Segev and Lycka come forward, shedding light on the industry’s intricacies, it becomes evident that Quebec’s online gambling sector remains a vibrant and evolving space, waiting to unfold its next chapter.