Quebec Declares War On Illegal iGaming Sites

Quebec’s government wants ISPs to start blocking access to unlicensed online operators taking bets in the province. Both the ISPs and advocates of internet freedom oppose the regulation, however, and are expected to go to court to try to stop it.

The Canadian province of Quebec has included in its 2015-16 budget proposal a new regulation that will require internet service providers to block public access to unlicensed online gaming sites.

The ban is being framed as a “public health” measure designed to curtail problem gambling, but it is expected to be challenged in court by internet freedom advocates who contend the real reason is to protect from competition the authorized web gambling provided by the government’s Loto-Quebec.

Provincial officials estimate that IP-blocking will boost revenues for the lottery’s online operation—Espace-jeux, as it’s called—by C$13.5 million in its first year.

The Canadian branch of the Internet Society, an organization that monitors internet free speech issues, has sent a letter to the provincial government that warned of the consequences of the proposed legislation to the value of free speech.

Timothy Denton, who chairs the society’s Canadian branch, criticized the regulation as censorship because it blocks “access to otherwise legally available sites in the interests of enhancing one’s gambling monopoly”. He characterized the plan as “expensive” and “futile” and “a direct attack on the freedom of movement of thought”.

The ISPs, which will bear the brunt of the technological and logistical costs—and could face fines of up to $200,000 for failing to comply—also are expected to challenge the regulation in court.