Quebec online gambling laws and why it’s not illegal to bet over the internet, even with international websites.
The government of Quebec would love to tell its people that gambling online at an international, offshore website is illegal. In fact, they’ve actually said it on multiple occasions. But according to the law, that’s not really the case.
I’m no legal expert or attorney, but there is much evidence to back up that statement. For one thing, over two decades of online gambling in Quebec has never once resulted in charges being brought up against an internationally regulated operator that has no ties to Canada.
One case did take place back in 2001, but the operator, Starnet Communications Ltd., held an office in Vancouver. That gave British Columbia the jurisdiction to prosecute the Antiguan business. Without physical presence, however, offshore operators certainly seem to be untouchable.
Ambiguity of Canada & Quebec Online Gambling Laws
The Criminal Code of Canada and relative legislation in Quebec are too ambiguous to call internet gambling illegal. The Criminal Code enforces a prohibition against all gambling (Part VII: Disorderly Houses, Gaming and Betting), but gives provinces the authority to “conduct and manage” any type of “lottery scheme” they see fit to regualte.
The term lottery scheme is a loose one, used to cover just about any form of wagering (lottery drawing, instant win games, casino games, poker, bingo, sports betting, etc.). The Criminal Code only defines a few specific terms for gambling, including “bet” and “game”:
Section 197 (1) In this Part,
Bet means a bet that is placed on any contingency or event that is to take place in or out of Canada, and without restricting the generality of the foregoing, includes a bet that is placed on any contingency relating to a horse-race, fight, match or sporting event that is to take place in or out of Canada; (pari)
A bet is a form of gambling that involves skill as a dominant factor, such as sports betting on athletic competitions and pari-mutuel horse racing.
Game means a game of chance or mixed chance and skill; (jeu)
A game is any form of gambling wherein chance is the sole or dominant factor. Slot machines are based entirely on chance, where as blackjack applies a combination of dominant chance and some skill.
Regulated Gambling in Quebec, Canada
Canada permits each province to choose which types of gambling to authorize. They can pass on the regulatory job of ‘conducting and managing’ those ‘lottery schemes’ to a Crown corporation, like Loto-Quebec.
Provincial laws apply only to what games are legal, and the corporations they licence to manage them. For example, Quebec chose to regulate online gambling, launching Espacejeux.com in November of 2010. Loto-Quebec provides licenses to that website’s suppliers (digital games manufacturers, payment processors, etc.) If any of them violate the rules, they are subject to penalty according to Quebec’s laws.
Operating such a scheme without a licence, however, falls under the jurisdiction of the Criminal Code, not Quebec. And as we’ve already discussed, Canada hasn’t bothered. That’s likely because amendments to the Criminal Code would be required to successfully pursue such a case.
More Reasons Online Gambling is Legal in Quebec
The most obvious reason online gambling is legal is (as mentioned above) the province runs its own iGaming website. Loto-Quebec provides its adults citizens with a wide range of internet gambling options – lotteries, casino games, skill games, poker games, bingo, and sports betting.
Anyone of legal age residing in Quebec (and not on the self-exclusion list) is more than welcome to participate in these games for real money. This alone tells us that online gambling is legal in Quebec.
As noted previously, Quebec has no authority to go after international gambling websites. Unless they’re physically located in Quebec, that’s a federal matter. Knowing that, the provincial government made an attempt to give itself that power last year.
A bill was passed in Quebec that was scripted to eliminate outside competition in the online gambling space. The bill told internet service providers (ISPs) to enforce an “IP block” against any iGaming operations the government added to its to-be-determined “blacklist” of “illegal gambling” operations.
Long story short, that bill never went into effect. Censorship of this nature falls under the jurisdiction of Canada’s federal telecommunications regulator, which wasted little time in kicking Quebec’s plan into the gutter.
Toss all this evidence into a big boiling pot, stir it up, and it’s quite clear that online gambling is legal in Quebec. It doesn’t matter if you do it at Espacejeux or a responsibly regulated offshore gambling website. Quebec can’t stop it, and Canada doesn’t even care to try.
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers, and are not qualified or attempting to offer legal advice. The following is our personal interpretation of current legislation. For precise clarification of the laws in Quebec and/or Canada, please contact an attorney or local authorities.
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