The government of Quebec has proposed a new law which would force ISPs to block unlicensed gambling sites. The list of sites to be blocked would be drawn up by Loto-Quebec, a Crown Corporation created by the government of Quebec to operate games of chance in the province.
The stated aim of the law would be to direct revenue to the government’s own gambling website, Espacejeux. Loto-Quebec has been bringing in lower revenues recently in face of competition from many gambling sites, and this law could reverse that trend. The government estimates that the site filtering, along with advertisement initiatives to bring new players to Espacejeux, would bring in $27 million per year for the provincial government.
However, the government insists this law is not purely a cash-grab. It claims the law is also being put into place for health and safety concerns, because unlicensed sites do not have responsible gaming rules and will pose a risk to young people. Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao stated that many unlicensed sites have a competitive advantage over Espacejeux, because they do not enforce a minimum player age. He says that the law will simply force all gambling sites to play by the same rules.
This proposal has already been targeted with heavy criticism. Allen Mendelsohn, a lawyer from Montreal, suggests that this law is not about stopping any harmful activity, but is purely for the purpose of protecting the government’s own monopoly. Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, criticized the proposal, stating, “Website blocking in Canada has been exceedingly rare. Online gambling sites are not illegal to view and to legislate blocking for commercial gain sets a dangerous Canadian precedent.”
The law is expected to meet a legal challenge. It will be challenged on free speech grounds, because the government is censoring content which is not actually illegal. It will also likely be challenged on jurisdictional grounds, because regulation of telecommunications is under the jurisdiction of the federal government. However, Quebec may claim jurisdiction on the grounds that the law falls under consumer protection. The jurisdictional gray area of this law is acknowledged by the Finance Minister, who states that it will have to be examined with federal officials.
Due you think this law is for the public good, or just a cash-grab by the government of Quebec? Leave your comments below.