The entire market is a patchwork of provincial legislation, with differing regulatory frameworks provided regionally, trying to offer residents the best gambling services.
To add to the confusion, only a small number of the large Canadian banks, like the Bank of Montreal, will allow payments from online gambling. Others, such as the Bank of Nova Scotia are only happy when the deposit is used for a provincially regulated iGaming provider. This obviously causes operational challenges, and there is a constant debate about what lies in the future for online gambling, especially in the Canadian province of Quebec.
So, what’s the bigger picture in Quebec?
Currently, online gambling is perfectly legal in Quebec and residents can enjoy wagering on the regulated EspaceJeux.com website. They can also open the virtual doors of hundreds of other casinos which are internationally regulated.
However, Quebec has its sights set firmly on its finances and has a target of increasing the overall revenue generated from iGaming.
Loto-Quebec is seeing consistent year on year revenue growth and now tops $85.9 million. EspaceJeux.com attracts over 273k visitors each month, more than double the world’s top site, PokerStars. With such an avid Canadian iGaming fan base, Quebec wants to double the total to 3.8% of the total gambling revenue by 2020.
Quebec has always been clear that they object to the bevy of offshore websites having access to the finances of their players. In 2016, it adopted Bill 74 legislation that effectively enforced an IP block against international online providers unauthorized by Loto-Quebec. This fuelled intense debate about the intentions of the local government, which was accused of internet censorship.
Both sides of the debate were heavily locked in legal challenges and disputes for over two years. The plan was eventually put on mandatory hold and was finally halted by a recent Supreme Court ruling. Deemed by them to be unconstitutional, nothing has more clearly highlighted the need for Canadian federal guidelines on where residents can enjoy iGaming with complete impunity.
Canadians who enjoy gambling online are estimated to be more than 70% of the population. Within the last year, there have been numerous off-shore online casinos and review sites opening up their sites for Canadian players, such as BestOnlineCasinoCA.
Surely players should have the right to choose where they spend their money, and not be limited to a Loto-Quebec state monopoly?
When will Quebec recognize the value of international operators?
For Quebec to realize the potential of online gambling, it needs to embrace international operators. The real value is in opening up the market, collecting taxes and license fees. This would enable it to provide protection along the way, as it is estimated that currently, around 50% of the total gambling revenue in Canada comes from problem gamblers. If the province were to mimic the incredible UK success, then revenue streams would increase phenomenally. Most importantly, it would be generated by protecting residents and not by eliminating competition.
It seems as if the province may finally be changing its stance and considering the wealth of available possibilities. Loto-Quebec is tentatively considering inviting other operators to the table, as long as they can “meet our high standards, particularly concerning integrity and responsible gambling.” Among these are the Stars Group, owner of PokerStars.
The Canadian market today is worth well in excess of $17 billion per annum that could be harnessed. Loto-Quebec is enjoying growth across all its business segments but announced in 2019 that the iGaming sector has, for the first time, generated more revenue than the Lotteries.
With the correct legislation and taxes, the gambling market will help to keep Canada competitive and grow the economy. With this brighter future, Quebec could easily liberalize the regulation of online casinos and collect taxes from the income generated by Canadian players. It seems like for now, there is a continuation of the status quo, but all eyes will remain on Quebec for its next move.