Quebec’s Proposed Bill seeks to block access to non-government online gambling sites
I have written on Francombat.com/words/politic, sadly and far too often, about the government in Quebec that have sought to impose conformity and constraint on freedom of expression and freedom of choice. It is a systemic malady. This time, the concept of a free and open Internet is being threatened in the province.
Bill 74 is a new bill making its way through Quebec's legislative process that seeks to force Internet service providers to block Quebecers' access to online gambling sites that aren't approved by the government. According to the bill “an Internet service provider may not give access to an online gambling site whose operation is not authorized under Québec law.”
In Canada, lotteries and other forms of casino gaming are governed by provincial Lottery and Gambling Corporations. The corporations include the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (serving Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland/Labrador), the Alberta Lottery and Gambling Corporation, the Manitoba Lottery and Gambling Corporation, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, the Western Canada Lottery Corporation which service Manitoba, Alberta, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Saskatchewan and the Loto Quebec.
In recent years, a number of these corporations have begun to offer their lottery and other casino activities online. The online activities are subject to the same rules and regulations as those of their other lottery and casino products. This includes the stipulation that participants must be physically present in the province in order to participate in the provincial lottery’s activities.
Offshore online gambling sites, on the other hand, are not subject to these laws. They operate freely throughout Canada (and the world). They are regulated by international gambling regulation agencies which monitor their games, paytables, random number generators and aspects of their ebanking transactions. Canadian law has never tried to ban their presence. Until now.
The province's finance minister Carlos Leitao says the bill is “necessary” to protect the health and safety of Quebecers because illegal sites don't apply the same "responsible gaming rules" as sites run by the government and pose a "risk to the population, especially young people.”
It may be difficult for Leitao to continue with his argument after the Quebec Working Group on Online Gambling turned in their report. They reported that compulsive gambling afflicts a relatively small 0.4% of the population, noting that “on online gambling sites, on average, Quebec adults play not very often, not very long, and don’t spend much.” He wants the act to be placed under the Health jurisdiction since every Canadian province has full jurisdiction over its own health codes. Quebec could create a licensing system that would regulate the activities of online gambling operators but no one suggestion seems to change the government’s intention to block offshores gaming websites.
Let's face it, the reasons given by Governments before they banned gambling was their concern for the common good, that is people could not be trusted to make the right decision. It is simply a way for Quebec's state-owned gambling authority Lotto Quebec to block competition and could lead to governments across the country deciding what citizens can and can't view online. Moreover, the legislation violates freedom of expression, contradicts federal telecommunications law and will likely be challenged in court by Internet companies and civil rights groups.
The bill undermines Quebec values. I haven’t seen anything like this in Canada. We are a free and democratic society, And I think we les Quebecois and Canadians don’t believe in Chinese-style approaches where government decides what kinds of sites the public is entitled to access. It’s pure communist. Is this really the kind of society we want to live in? We think not.
In 1993, the federal government included the principle in the CRTC’s Telecommunications Act, which clearly states “Except where the Commission (the CRTC) approves otherwise, a Canadian carrier shall not control the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public.”
I have been betting on fights since early 2000 and I am quit successful at it. As a matter of fact, my proven betting track record speak for itself. Quit frankly, If I want to gamble I'm going to gamble. You can argue about it all you want but at the end of the day it is my money and I am going to do what I want with it. If I want to bet on fights, why do I need a government representative to hold my hand?
It's not the activity that's addictive, it's the person. Gambling is entertainment, and the vast majority do so without any social cost whatsoever. You either choose to enjoy it as entertainment and gamble judiciously, or you choose to abuse it - and then blame everyone else except the person in the mirror. Everyone has freedom of choice, whether they get addicted to something or not. I used to smoke cigar for year but I quit and that was my freedom of choice. People get addicted to anything - gambling, smoking, drinking, and the list goes on but that's their problem to deal with. It does not mean nor justify that the rest of us follow like sheep. The problems of a few shouldn't have an impact on the many.
There is nothing wrong with offshore gambling sites. The only problem with online offshore gaming this is the Provincial Government's addiction to the revenue, and their monopoly position. The real reason for this additional intrusion into our lives is that Lotto-Quebec, has lost some $46 million to online gaming competitors, according to the 2015-16 budget documents. In response, the provincial government of Premier Phillippe Couillard (Liberals) introduced a new bill that would empower Loto-Québec to draw up a list of “illegal online gambling” websites that internet providers would be required to block. It should be noted that the government estimates that, by shutting down the online gambling sites, an additional $13.5 million in 2016-2017 revenues, and an additional $27 million in subsequent years revenues, will be brought in to its approved gambling portal, Espacejeux.
The Prime Minster of Quebec Philippe Couillard and his Financial Minister are engaging in hypocrisy. There may be something wrong with Governments promoting their own sites or having them in the first place. It deems it acceptable to encourage its own casino and lottery gambling as well as it's online gaming, while limiting the power of adults to make independent choices for themselves. It would be even worse if they decided that they should monopolize the industry.
Offshore operators have a few built-in advantages that make betting on fights much better. Unlike offshore sites that offer much better odds, single-fight bet (which is still illegal in Canada) and betting options, currently, gamblers in Quebec, for example, must bet on a minimum of two fights, otherwise known as a parlay bet. Gamblers need to correctly predict the outcome of all two fights in order to win. It's much easier to correctly predict the outcome of a single fight than it is to predict the outcome of two at the same time.
If Online gambling become illegal, all government lotteries and casino gambling, should be illegal as well. In fact, gambling in Canada used to be illegal until government realized how much money they could make on it and 'stuck its nose in our business', as you so aptly put it. When was that law removed from the books? That was until mostly Liberal Governments stared at a means to get more tax revenue to cover their wasteful spending. Then well their concerns fell away. Now their only concern is how to corner the market. Our governments are addicted to tax revenue money at any cost. This is a “no brainer” but to tax money grabbing addicted politicians. For them, gambling is another revenue stream from the poor.
The government needs to keep its nose out of our business. If they have an issue with it, it will be how can they collect taxes on it, and nothing else. Politicians are elected to lead and make good sound decisions towards citizens leading and living more productive and more meaningful lives in society, not do more to ruin lives. All gambling, online or otherwise, is not something Provincial Governments should be involved with. When you look at the big picture, the costs outweigh the profits.
I think the Quebec government doesn't understand the importance of an open and free Internet. "Net neutrality" is understood to mean that Internet companies should be neutral carriers of content and not favor some sites over others or block access to certain sites. The only content currently blocked is child pornography. That’s a whole other issue because the content itself is different.
The proposed bill 74 clearly violates freedom of expression. I want this law to be challenged. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled citizens’ rights aren’t only protected when it comes to expressing ideas, but that people also have the fundamental right to hear and read things. The Canadian federal telecommunications laws will be tested I can promise. The bill could lead to the Quebec government banning access to other online content, such as sites that violate the province’s strict language laws or sites that include hate speech.
What is unparalleled in this new legislation, is that it would grant Quebec the power to block the freedom of use of the internet. Perhaps the most odious aspect of this proposed legislation, is that Quebec would become the only jurisdiction in the liberal, industrialized west to have such a state truncheon. It would put us in the esteemed company of China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.
Politicians are elected to lead and make good sound decisions towards citizens leading and living more productive and more meaningful lives in society, not do more to control their lives. I strongly suggest that Quebec allow the online gambling sites to continue and to even offer them to the public via a government portal. If that's what people want, then so be it.