Sunday March 13,2016 : QUEBEC TO USE HEALTH PLOY IN ONLINE GAMBLING CLAMPDOWN?
Quebec’s Finance Minister says public health laws fall within province's jurisdiction.
Rather than clash with Canada's federal communications laws, Quebec finance minister Carlos Leitao has chosen public health legalization as a more convenient vehicle to push forward on Quebec's drive to eliminate online gambling competitors to the province's Loto-Quebec run and underperforming Espacejeux.
InfoPowa readers will recall that Quebec's controversial anti-online gambling measure has been under consideration for some time, and envisages authorising Loto-Quebec to draw up lists of "illegal" online gambling operators which the provincial government would then require internet service providers (ISPs) to block, creating a virtual monopoly for Espacejeux.
But the federal Telecommunications Act has provisions that preclude ISPs from interfering with "…the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by ISPs for the public.”
It is clearly an essentially telecommunications issue, although interference with financial transactions has also been mooted, but Leitao is hesitant about tackling it through the possibly problematic federal communications legalization, preferring the public health approach, where provinces have more local authority.
“There are things we can do on our side because we can tackle these questions from a public health perspective, which is in our jurisdiction,” Leitao has said.
Quebec's dubious motives and the nature of the proposed legalization has come under attack from opposition politicians, consumer watchdogs, privacy action groups, law experts, freedom of speech advocates and internet neutrality proponents, who have pointed out that the Quebec proposal to effectively censor the internet dangerously opens the door to extensions of the law to ecommerce and other sectors.
The provincial government is pressing ahead with its anti-online gambling plan despite the recommendations of its own Quebec Working Group on Online Gambling, which thoroughly studied the pros and cons of the genre and concluded that Quebec should regulate and licence online gambling within the province, and even facilitate it by publicising operators with local licenses.
The Working Group also reported that only a small percentage (0.04 percent) of the population was at risk of problem gambling, and that Quebecers generally spend little money or time gambling.
Meanwhile, Loto-Quebec has quantified the monetary advantage it could gain by eliminating the online competition; an additional Cdn$13.5 million in 2016-2017 revenues, and an additional Cdn$27 million in subsequent years could accrue to Espacejeux.
The Quebec government has been repeatedly warned that pursuing its plans will result in further confrontations with action groups, and the possibility of judicial opposition in terms of the interference with the internet. So far these warnings appear to have fallen on deaf ears.