Quebec to Enter Online Poker Market



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The world of internet gaming and online poker continues to become more convoluted, as it was announced earlier this week that the Canadian province of Quebec has entered into a deal to open a State-authorized online gaming operation.

It was announced on Wednesday that Loto-Quebec, who holds the monopoly on the online lottery in the Canadian province, was authorized by the provincial government to begin operating an internet gambling and online poker portal for its citizens. The new site would compete against other online casino and poker sites and would not, officials state, monopolize the industry in the province. Despite the fact that online gaming is legal in Canada, the move by the provincial government has been painted as a way to eliminate unregulated operations that currently are in existence and increase revenue for the province.

According to reports from CTV Montreal, Loto-Quebec, along with the operators the British Columbia and Atlantic Lottery Corporations, will set up a singular site in the second half of 2010 that will cater to citizens of Quebec. CTV Montreal reports that over $600 million in revenue is pulled in by over 2000 operations, many of them outside of the government’s jurisdiction or the “black market,” as the government believes. CTV Montreal quotes the Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand as saying, “Our citizens are not protected and the money goes to illegal channels.”

Loto-Quebec states that, beyond the money side of the equation, the company and the government are looking to expand protections for consumers. According to Loto-Quebec, the new site will feature several preventative measures that will help to thwart the occurrence of difficult issues such as age verification, deposit limits, and problem gambling. “(Other) online gambling sites obviously do not offer an assistance program for vulnerable players and it is left to the (government) to pick up the costs of problem gaming,” according to Loto-Quebec Chief Executive Officer Alain Cousineau as saying.

Loto-Quebec has said it is looking to a European nation that has nationalized its gaming, Sweden, as a template. The Swedish site Svenska Spel offers internet gaming and online poker and is the only legal outlet for Swedes to pursue such activities. Svenska Spel was founded in 1997 and opened its online poker operations in 2006; it is currently the 13th largest online poker site in the online poker industry, according to PokerScout.com.

This latest move by Quebec follows other efforts in the United States, where jurisdictions are looking to take the online gaming industry out of the hands of the federal government. Three states – California, Florida, and New Jersey – may open their own state-run sites.

A thread on the online forum TwoPlusTwo is debating the issue, with opinions landing on both sides. Poster “defactocrippler” states in a post, “I assume they did some investigating and it is pretty likely that some money is going to illegal channels… Citizens are in fact not protected because there is no regulation.” Others point out that the move by Quebec could be seen as an attack on the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake Indians, who operate the Kahnawake Gaming Commission and are responsible for the licensing and operation of hundreds of online casino and poker sites.

Stay tuned to Poker News Daily for the latest on Quebec legalizing internet gambling.

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