The Canadian online casino market is an
interesting one, to say the least. In theory, it is a state monopoly, with the
provinces' own lottery corporations being the only companies allowed to provide
locals with online casino and poker services - this in spite the biggest online
poker brand in the world, PokerStars, has its headquarters in Toronto. On the
other, the federal legislation in the country is pretty permissive both with
offshore operators and local gamblers, which leads to many of them flocking to
international casinos. But things are complicated even further by the lack of
availability of local alternatives to international operators: only Ontario,
British Columbia, Quebec, and Manitoba have local online casinos for their
players. With such a lack of local options, it is understandable that players
are seeking out international operators to take care of their online gambling
But things might get even more complicated in the future. If you have been
following the latest casino news
you are likely familiar with Bill 74, a legal initiative that
would block access to any unlicensed international online gambling operator for
Canadian players. The bill would allow the country's finance minister to order
ISPs to block access to certain websites, making it impossible for local
players to play the games of their choice.
For the four provinces where local online casinos exist, this wouldn't be such
a major issue - even if the operators available locally have a far more limited
game variety, and offer fewer player benefits than their offshore counterparts,
they at least exist. But there are many provinces where there is no sign of a
local online gambling operation to be even planned for the foreseeable future.
The players who are currently spending their money at offshore operators would
be left with it unspent. And this means that provinces will be missing out on a
potential source of revenue.
How much revenue, you might ask? Well, quite a lot, we must say. For the fiscal
year that ended on March 21st, 2017, Loto Quebec's EspaceJeux reported revenues
worth CAD85.9 million, growing almost 30% compared to last year. BCLC's PlayNow
was even more profitable: its revenues exceeded CAD155 million in the same
timeframe. Since provincial lottery corporations are not-for-profit operations,
all this money flows into the state's budget.
Blocking the players' access to international gaming operations makes sense
only if there are local alternatives where they can spend their money - and in
most Canadian provinces, this is not the case right now. Such a measure could
push the players toward a more "underground" gambling market, with
little to no customer protection, and still leave the provinces' budgets
without a large amount year after year.