Gambling by Alan Cleaver (CC BY 2.0)

Gambling by Alan Cleaver (CC BY 2.0)


Quebec Bets on Internet Blocking: New Bill Mandates ISP Blocking of Gambling Websites

The Government of Quebec has introduced new legislation that requires Internet service providers to block access to unlicensed online gambling sites. The provisions are contained in an omnibus bill implementing elements of the government’s spring budget, which included a promise to establish website blocking requirements. The bill provides that “an Internet service provider may not give access to an online gambling site whose operation is not authorized under Québec law.” The government’s lottery commission will establish the list of banned websites:

“The Société des loteries du Québec shall oversee the accessibility of online gambling. It shall draw up a list of unauthorized online gambling sites and provide the list to the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux, which shall send it to Internet service providers by registered mail.

According to the law:

“An Internet service provider that receives the list of unauthorized online gambling sites in accordance with section 260.35 shall, within 30 days after receiving the list, block access to those sites.

The mandated blocking legislation is unprecedented in Canada and will surely be subject to legal challenge.  To date, the federal government has worked to support a private sector initiative to block access to child pornography images, but the law on child pornography (which bans viewing such materials) is different from this form of website blocking.

As I noted earlier this year, the Quebec government apparently views this initiative as a revenue enhancing measure because it wants to direct gamblers to its own Espacejeux, the Loto-Québec run online gaming site. A November 2014 report found that Espacejeux was not meeting revenue targets since people were using other sites. The government believes that the website blocking will increase government revenues by $13.5 million in 2016-17 and $27 million per year thereafter.

The Quebec decision is particularly surprising given recommendations from its own working group on online gambling. It studied the state of online gambling in the province and concluded that the best approach was not to block access to other sites, but rather to invite them all into the market. The key recommendation:

the Working Group believes that in order to control the online gambling market, protect consumers and generate revenues for the government, the best solution for the government is to establish clear rules and open up the online gambling market to private operators. In fact, the best solution is to establish an online gambling licensing system.

Rather than opening the market though, Quebec is instead seeking to censor the Internet for its own commercial gain by ordering Internet providers to block access to any unregulated sites. The plan is likely face a legal challenge, both on free speech and jurisdictional grounds, since the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over telecommunications regulation.

Moreover, the Quebec legislation moves Canada down a slippery slope, since if this becomes law, it is easier to envision governments requiring the blocking of sites that are alleged to infringe copyright or blocking e-commerce sites that are not bilingual or do not pay provincial taxes. If that happens, the open Internet in Canada would be placed at risk of unprecedented government intervention into how Internet providers manage their networks and what sites Canadians are able to access.


  1. Devil's Advocate says:

    So much for Canada’s big commitment to net neutrality.

    • This is an action being taken by a Provence (Quebec) not Canada, and as the article states, is likely a case of overstepping of authority.

      • Devil's Advocate says:

        Yeah, and the Province of Quebec is part of Canada, who made a national “commitment” to net neutrality not long ago. What’s your point?

        • This move is not being made by the same level of government that made the commitment to net neutrality. The Provincial government in this case seems to be overstepping its jurisdiction and will likely face a court challenge to any such legislation. Thus the point is that it is not a reflection of national policy or national attitudes.

          • Devil's Advocate says:

            The Quebec government IS overstepping Canada’s commitment. That was my point.

            There needs to be an act of Parliament to actually protect net neutrality from moves like Quebec’s. But, in true Harper fashion, we only have a vague “commitment” in the form of a verbal statement, leaving the Courts to make judgments on things even the government itself is doing.

    • Quebec is barely part of Canada. They’re the bitchy reticent province. Basically Canadian Texas. Always talking about how great it was back when they were an independent body (to the extent that they were) and expecting everybody to treat them differently because they…. decided they deserve it? Sadly that squeaky wheel gets plenty of grease so it’s not going to stop.

  2. Doing the right thing (debatably) for all the wrong reasons. This is just poking the bear. Really just a pr stunt

    • The “right” thing?!

      The article, and the law, very clearly state they are doing this to increase revenue. This is not to prevent problem gambling or illegal activity at all.

      • They are obviously doing it to protect the citizens. They need to do that to prevent scammers from taking the money of their hard working citizens and not give back a cent to them.

        • Devil's Advocate says:

          They’re doing it to stifle competition to their own provincial online gambling model, in hopes of increasing their own profits.

          This has nothing to do with protecting anyone from “scammers”. It’s clearly an anti-competitive maneuver and a blatant abuse of power.

  3. I just sent a message to my MNA voicing my disapproval and asking if they’ve really considered the technical and financial implications (I’m sure this will cost more to administrate than the additional revenues it realistically generates).

    I recommend every do something similar. You can find your MNA here:

  4. David Collier-Brown says:

    IMHO, governments should regulate (“police”) things, not operate them.

    I particularly dislike governments operating things which are inherently dangerous or addictive, as it creates a financial bias toward refraining from policing them.

    One never wants to arrange schemes where crooks fund the police: Mr Harris tried that with water inspections in Ontario, and promptly killed people in Walkerton.

  5. Even worse, the domain where this legislation is found and where one needs to go to to submit public comments was being blocked.

    Videotron users as well as certain Bell users could not even load the site, see:

    Site blocking appears to have already started, starting with the citizens right to participate public proceedings.

  6. Ryk van Donselaar says:

    A VPN is all you need.

  7. It’s the Quebec government, so if they succeed in blocking gambling sites, they’ll follow up by blocking any non-french site!

    I glanced through the official PDF of the bill and I cannot find what penalties would be imposed on any ISP refusing to comply.

  8. That’s what you get for voting for the Quebec Liberals. Hope you like your stupid legislation.

  9. Chris Lautenbach says:

    This is the same thing that has been tried in so many other jurisdictions. It still boggles my mind that governments can embark down such reckless paths without doing any research whatsoever. They think they’re going to capture a bigger piece of the revenue pie by running their own dinky poker site. When that doesn’t work out, they try to pass legislation that *forces* people to play there because they have no alternative.

    Many other jurisdictions have tried this approach and failed. The smart ones actually grant companies like PokerStars a license to operate there and take a share of the revenue. More players = more income.

    The truly ridiculous part of this is that a) PokerStars is owned by a company based in Montreal, and b) many of these so-called gambling websites they’d be blocking are based in a datacenter on the Kahnawake Mohawk Reserve just south of Montreal.

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  12. Time to start thinking about getting VPN services.

  13. Michael Boyle says:

    There’s a pretty decent chance this is something else entirely.

    Consider the following:

    1. The QC government has been in negotiations to regulate private online gaming operators, and there are quotes from officials in Loto-QC that their own online efforts have failed.

    2. One of the largest online gaming companies in the world is owned by a QC-based company (Amaya), and that company seems to have made the policy decision to no longer operate in grey markets but to seek regulatory approval in all jurisdictions.

    3. Assuming that the negotiations are successful, moving from a grey market environment to a fully-regulated environment requires that grey market operators be shut down. The status quo can not continue.

    4. So it’s much more likely that this is the preliminary step to moving to a regulated environment in QC than any kind of attempt to steer everyone to Loto-QC’s own failed site (which they admit has failed).

    5. I presume that any current operator will be invited to apply for a license – but ones that don’t will no longer be available in QC.

    6. I would be shocked if this didn’t become the model for every province in Canada, and that doing it in this way will help to address the #1 problem in online gaming as pertains to poker – player liquidity. Current regulations tend to slice up markets, but poker and other popular games really require shared global liquidity in order to develop the economies of scale to make them work (and thus create revenue for the various licensing bodies). I would be really disappointed if Pokerstars isn’t trying to kill both birds with one stone here.

  14. What’s up friends, how is all, and what you desire to say about this article, in my view its genuinely awesome for me.

  15. Phew, thank goodness the kind benevolent government is saving my from myself! I’m just a stupid peasant citizen and have no idea what’s best for me, so I prefer my government to control me and tell me what to do.