A recent study by Concordia University and Université Laval found that three times as many people bet online in Quebec in 2020-21 as in 2018. The percentage of the province’s population gambling online has increased from 5% to 15%.
There are several reasons for this significant increase that began during the pandemic. These reasons include changes to sports betting laws, people wanting to kill time, and individuals feeling isolated. Advertisements were also a major factor in the increased number of people playing casino games and betting on sports online. Together these factors have increased not only the number of people gambling online but also the potential for people to have issues with problem gambling.
Given the potential for damage to individuals, Professor Sylvia Kairouz from Concordia University is calling for an independent regulator. This request is backed by Anne Elizabeth Lapointe, executive director of Maison Jean Lapointe. The organisation helps people with gambling addictions, and Lapointe is not surprised by the number of people playing at online casinos and sportsbooks.
Both Professor Kairouz and Ms. Lapointe believe that more gambling regulation is necessary. Aside from an independent regulator, other suggestions include improving player protection and limiting the amount of gambling advertising. It would be difficult to ban gambling advertising altogether, but even reducing it, or restricting access to vulnerable groups, could reduce the occurrence of problem gambling.
The crown corporation Loto-Québec is responsible for overseeing lotteries and gaming in Quebec. It takes steps to promote responsible gambling, but federal legislation does not allow it to block sites that are not part of its remit.
Further regulation of online casino gambling in Quebec would create a similar environment to the situation in Ontario, where there are numerous regulated online casinos for people to use, as detailed in this article from timesunion.com which talks about the casino experience in the province.
These Ontario sites are required to be registered to provide gambling services by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). This registration is open to operators located in Ontario and those that are based elsewhere. There is no limit on the number of operating licenses available in Ontario.
There are two parts to the regulated online gambling landscape in Ontario. The first part is the registration with AGCO, and the second part is entering into a commercial relationship with iGaming Ontario (iGO).
If regulation of online gambling in Quebec does happen, it could look similar to the situation in Ontario. There is potential for sites to register with an authority that is not part of the gambling industry and operate within a legal framework.
This sort of framework is not happening right now. However, it certainly has potential for the future. This is especially the case given that regulation in Ontario has been so successful, with around 80% of people gambling online doing so at regulated sites.