Quebec will block unlicensed online gambling sites, including online poker rooms in a move considered controversial by many. Those involved have protested that the move could be not only impractical, but also illegal.
Andree-Lyne Halle, a spokesperson for the finance minister, told CJAD Radio recently: “We will follow-up on the measures announced in the budget.”
The government’s decision contradicts the suggestions of the group that it had commissioned to advise it on its online gambling policies. This group is led by Louise Nadeau, professor of Montreal University. Giving the example of Italy, which had made similar moves, but didn’t quite succeed, Nadeau said: “We know very, very well we have several child pornography sites, and even then we are not blocking them out. It’s extremely difficult, and it’s easier said than done.” She is also of the opinion that the move will find it difficult to overcome legal hurdles.
Quebec plans to instruct Internet service providers (ISP) to prevent players from gaining access to online gambling sites, including online poker rooms in a bid to eliminate competition for the Lotto Quebec Corporation, which is run by the government. The province’s March budget included plans to create an “illegal website filtering measure.” The government is of the opinion that its policies will help boost the revenues of Loto Quebec Corporation by $13.5 million the following fiscal year and by $27 million in the years to follow.
According to the plan, the Loto Quebec Corporation, which also operates online casino gaming and online poker services under the brand name Espace-jeux, will have to create a list of unlicensed gambling sites that ISPs will have to block.
Quebec has not mentioned if it would blacklist PokerStars, whose parent firm Amaya Incorporated has its main offices in Montreal and supplies the software for Espace-jeux.
Criticizing the move, Michael Greist, the online law professor at the University of Ottawa, said that that the new policy will be challenged chiefly because telecommunications is regulated by the federal government. Although gambling at unlicensed online gambling sites is not legal, viewing the same isn’t.
In a blog post, Greist said: “To legislate blocking for commercial gains sets a dangerous Canadian precedent. Once blocking gaming and gambling sites is established, it is easy to envision the government requiring blocking of sites that are alleged to infringe copyright or blocking ecommerce sites that are not bilingual or do not pay provincial taxes.”