Quebec Bill Would Restrict iGaming Operators

Lawmakers in Quebec, Canada, have passed a controversial bill that would block all online poker sites that are not licensed and regulated by the Quebec government—which would preclude every operator except Espace-Jeux, which is run by government regulator Loto-Quebec.

The passage of Bill 74 drew criticism from operators claiming it violates net neutrality, and from the country’s internet service providers (ISPs), which currently offer hundreds of unlicensed gambling sites, including those operated by Canadian First Nation Indian tribes.

The bill is likely to face lawsuits on constitutional grounds by the ISPs and other opponents, who claim its implementation would be extremely expensive and impractical, maybe even impossible. And illegal: Canada’s 1993 Federal Telecommunications Act prohibits communications providers from “controlling the content or influencing the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public.”

“It’s extremely costly and challenging technically from a wireless standpoint,” Kurt Eby, director of government relations at the Canadian Wireless Telecoms Association, told Canada’s Financial Post. “Our three largest members are national in scope, and many others are multi-provincial. Their networks are designed as a complete network, so they don’t have the means to block content at a provincial level. Even for what this law is asking for to be feasible, it would cost millions of dollars and take months of engineering.”

The Kahnawake Gaming Commission, which licenses and regulates 90 online gaming sites from around the world and offers them to Quebec residents, complained that the tribe would lose millions in revenue if the law is implemented.

One of the only major iGaming providers supporting the law is Amaya, Inc., owner of the world’s largest iGaming site in PokerStars. Amaya is already a partner with Loto-Quebec, and hopes to secure one of three new licenses planned for operators to provide branded products for the Espace-Jeux platform.