Quebec Online Betting Sales Up; Illegal Bookies Up Too

Quebec, the second largest province in Canada, reported positive sports betting results during the fiscal first quarter. The numbers are more impressive given the competition from offshore operators. The province wants Ottawa to help.

Quebec Online Betting Sales Up; Illegal Bookies Up Too

Loto-Quebec, the lone agency offering legal sports betting in Quebec, says online revenue rose during the fiscal first quarter even as the firm and other government-owned gaming corporations face competition from offshore operators, according to Covers.

In the first quarter, sports betting in Loto-Québec generated around $8.3 million in revenue from April 1 to June 27, up 7.7 percent from last year’s first quarter. There was a 33.3 percent increase in online sports betting sales compared to last year, when single-game wagering was not yet legal in Canada.

“Single-event betting, which was added to the gaming options in August 2021, is very popular with players and strongly encourages live betting,” Loto-Québec said in a press release last week.

Loto-Québec brought in total revenues of $744.3 million and a net profit of $446.5 million for its first quarter, which includes earnings from its lottery and brick-and-mortar casino operations. Revenue and net income were up 85.5 percent and 128.1 percent, respectively.

Loto-Québec is a member of a coalition of provincial gaming corporations seeking help from the federal government to crack down on illegal operators. The group also includes the British Columbia Lottery Corp.; Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis; Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corp.; and the Atlantic Lottery Corp.

Some of those offshore operators advertise free-to-play websites on Canadian television that resemble real-money sites and that can “blur the line” between provincially regulated books and illegal ones.

“Research shows that the majority of players are unaware of whether an online site is legal in their province or not,” Atlantic Lottery President and CEO Patrick Daigle said in an August press release. “This is a significant amount of money that could be staying right here in our region to fund public services, but instead continues to be taken away from helping our communities to the sole benefit of illegal operators.”

Ontario launched a market for internet gambling in April that allows private-sector operators of online sportsbooks and casinos to legally take bets in the province, though deemed illegal in other provinces.

Quebec and the other provinces hope Ottawa listens. In a recent survey 71 percent of adults in Quebec agreed that Loto-Quebec is the only legal online operator, an increase of 7 percent since February.

“Part of the coalition’s advocacy will work to raise public awareness about the prevalence of illegal operators and advise media platform owners of their duty to comply with existing laws and regulations by refusing to accept misleading advertisements,” the group said in the August press release.

Unlike the other provinces, Ontario let unregulated sportsbooks take online bets. The hope was the unregulated would take the necessary steps with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to become a regulated operator.

Some did. Some did not. The commission has had it with the “did not” category and has instituted a transition phase through October 31 in which the sportsbooks can either join the regulated group or shut their doors in Ontario.

“This new standard establishes that operators and gaming-related suppliers that are currently active in the unregulated market in Ontario (or have agreements and arrangements with those in the unregulated market in Ontario) must end their activities in the unregulated market to avoid jeopardizing their eligibility for registration,” the AGCO warned. “This requirement extends to applicants for registration in Ontario’s IGaming scheme.”

Ontarians were spending almost $1 billion a year on online gambling and an estimated 70 percent went to “unregulated, grey market” websites.

The solution for Ontario involved opening a regulated market for iGaming that would invite private-sector operators of online sportsbooks and casinos to fall within provincial oversight.

A new iGaming market went live in April and includes more than 20 legal sportsbooks, in addition to casino and poker websites.

The AGCO established a procedure to allow operators and suppliers that were live in Ontario’s unregulated market to transition into the regulated one with little disruption to customers.

As part of that process, the regulator began accepting applications for iGaming registration in September 2021, with that registration one of two key steps for operators looking to launch in the new market. The other step is signing an operating agreement with iGaming Ontario, a government agency.

“Since market launch on April 4, the AGCO has provided a reasonable amount of time for these operators and gaming-related suppliers to join the regulated market in a business-like and seamless fashion,” the regulator said. “A significant number of iGaming operators and gaming related suppliers have registered with the AGCO, entered into an agreement and are complying with Ontario’s regulatory framework.”

Enter the operators who did not play by the rules. Hence the October 31 date.

“As with any instance of non-compliance, the AGCO will take appropriate regulatory action against any registrant that does not meet this Standard (once it comes into force),” the regulator said.