When online poker was banned in the United States after the infamous Black Friday, a number US based online gamblers who made their living playing poker decided to re-locate to countries where they could play online poker legally. A large number of these players moved over to neighboring Canada where online poker was legal and a number of them have settled in Quebec.
Earlier this year, the government of Quebec decided to pass a new law that made online gambling illegal. The move came as a surprise to both online gambling providers and online poker players in Quebec. The new legislation under Bill 74 is yet to be enforced but once implemented internet service providers in Quebec will be required to block access to all online gambling websites.
The Quebec government wants only Espacejeux to operate its online poker website as it is a state owned online gambling company and the government will benefit from creating a monopoly and earning a significant amount of gambling taxes.
This would also mean that PokerStars, 888poker and partypoker would be banned from operating in Quebec and will most likely have to pull out of the region as they will not be willing to take the risk of being blacklisted for operating in a grey market. PokerStars already made it clear by pulling out of Israel earlier this year that it will no longer run the risk of operating in grey markets as it continues its push to enter into the United States.
Online gambling companies in Quebec received support from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) who have decided to approach the Quebec Superior Court and see if Bill 74 is even legal. The Telecommunications Act says “Except where the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission approves otherwise, a Canadian carrier shall not control the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public.”
This means that federal law does not allow a province to ban online gambling websites unless the federal commission decides to make an exception. The filing by CWTA states that if Quebec was to implement Bill 74, CTWA would not be able to abide by both provincial and federal law since they contradict each other.
However, Carlos Leitao, Quebec Finance Minister has approached the matter from a different angle stating that online gambling should be banned as it posed a serious threat to residents in Quebec as it increased their exposure to online gambling addictions.