After the province’s clash against telecom companies over offshore online casinos, which raised the issue of internet neutrality, Quebec finds itself back in court. This time over single sports betting. The Quebec government is planning to appeal these rulings to Canada’s Supreme Court.
The Status of Gambling in Quebec
As a province, Quebec has the second largest part of Canada’s entire gambling sector. Several forms of gambling are legal in the province, including online casino sites and online lotteries. In fact, this figure more than doubled, rising to 5%. Experts have said that they will continue to grow in the coming years.
Within the province, there are four land-based casinos and three racetracks. Casino games such as slot machines, table games, video poker as well as sports betting can be found in the land-based casinos. In addition, Quebec casinos offer both onsite and online lottery games. Over the past 3 years, however, Loto-Quebec has been in and out of court. One of the main reasons is to fight claims of being anti-competitive. At present Loto-Quebec has the biggest market share in Quebec. Loto-Quebec fears new online casinos will hurt their position.
what is Quebec’s problem with Single Sports Betting?
While single sports gaming is illegal in Canada, that hasn’t stopped its popularity from rising. Many citizens are calling on the province to change the law like in the US. In the US, sports betting has been made legal. Each US State will have the right to offer sports betting. No such changes have been made in Canada yet. As it stands, thousands of single sports gaming sites work outside the province. Other sports sites can be found near the Quebec border. Loto-Quebec and local government have tried to ban these sites from targeting its citizens.
The heavily regulated gaming industry within the province has led people to accuse it of being a monopoly. Loto-Quebec's move to limit competition didn't help. It was these claims that landed the province in hot water with the courts.
The Latest Court Ruling
In 2016, the province passed a law Bill 74 to block thousands of sites and apps which it said were promoting illegal gambling. All internet providers were told to ban players from accessing any gaming sites except for Loto-Quebec. However, the Supreme Court of Canada fought this law on the basis of internet neutrality. Under neutrality law, the internet should always be free of bias. This extends to provinces and businesses as well.
Other gaming companies argued that the law also stopped free trade.
Speaking in court Justice Pierre Nollet said “The Tribunal, after analyzing the pith and substance of the Provincial Provision, concludes that the association of this provision with consumer protection is only superficial. The essence of the impugned provisions is to enforce the exclusive right of the province to exploit online gambling by imposing an obligation on ISPs to block signals or data from content providers that the province considers illegal. These powers fall under federal jurisdiction.”
However, the court ruling has not stopped Quebec, which has said they will keep fighting for a full ban on so-called illegal gaming sites. So in the meantime, nothing will change.
For the people of Quebec, the wait for online sports betting continues.