controversial legislation to block unauthorized online gambling sites has
become law, setting up a looming legal fight between the provincial government,
their federal counterparts and local internet service providers (ISP).
May 17, the Quebec legislature approved Bill 74, the omnibus legislation which
includes language authorizing the ministry of finance to order ISPs to IP-block
online gambling sites other than EspaceJeux, the site run by provincial
gambling monopoly Loto-Quebec.
Bill 74’s provisions took effect on May
18, putting Loto-Quebec on the clock for drawing up the list of offending
sites. Should ISPs balk at enforcing this blacklist – at the ISPs’ expense – within
30 days of its receipt, the law allows for fines of up to $100k per incident.
controversial plans were announced
over a year ago and immediately drew fire
from internet watchdogs and ISPs, who noted that censorship of this
type had no precedent in Canada, while pointing out that telecommunications
issues fall under federal jurisdiction, not provincial.
provincial finance minister Carlos Leitao said Quebec would skirt any
constitutional concerns by framing the
issue as a ‘public health’ matter, in that only Loto-Quebec had the
tools to protect the province’s problem gamblers from self-abuse.
Leitao conveniently ignored earlier
comments in which he told the legislature that the IP-blocking would improve
the health of Loto-Queec’s bottom line, which stands to gain around $27m per
year in additional revenue from the resulting lack of competition.
74 was briefly discussed in Canada’s House of Commons in April, during which
Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Jolystated that she and the rest of
the ruling Liberal party “believe in net neutrality” and would be having
“ongoing discussions” with Quebec officials regarding Bill 74. With the bill
having passed, these discussions will likely be conducted in a courtroom.
blacklist will most assuredly not include sites owned by Montreal-based Amaya Gaming, a longtime
Loto-Quebec B2B partner. A self-serving report prepared for and endorsed by
Leitao last year suggested Loto-Quebec license a few
private online operators, like, say, Amaya’s
flagship PokerStars brand, from whom Loto-Quebec would take a chunk
of Quebec-earned revenue.
related news, online gambling technology supplier NetEnt is reducing
its Canadian exposure. In an email to customers, Malta-licensed Guts.com announced
that “one of our most popular casino game providers, Netent, is no longer
offering its games in Canada as of tomorrow, the 26th May 2016.”
A followup message indicated that the
change affected the Guts, Rizk and Betspin brands. A Rizk Casino rep subsequently
confirmed the news via a forum post, saying “the information that I have had
through NetEnt is that this is a network-wide IP-blockage and it will come into
July 2014, NetEnt issued a notice to Malta-licensed Videoslots.com that called
Canada “a black-listed market where NetEnt games must not be offered.” The
communiqué stressed that NetEnt had “a strict zero-tolerance policy towards
this” because “illegal activities might harm NetEnt’s