During his time as Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has worked to bring Canada into the 21st century. This has involved supporting ‘The Cannabis Act' and creating a gender-balanced cabinet. However, there is one area of Canadian life that is still in need of reform: Online Gambling. To be clear online gambling is legal in Canada, but the laws around it are “grey” at best. Despite a lack of clear guidelines, online gambling in Canada is thriving. Currently, the Canadian gambling market is worth an estimated CA$17.3 billion dollars. In 2017, the gambling sector grew by 4.9%. Growth was driven by Canadian Lotteries, land casinos and online casino gambling. To ensure growth and stability in the future maybe it's time for Prime Minister Trudeau to consider online gambling legislation?
Online Gambling: A Provincial Matter
Today, in Canada, there is no centralised online gambling legislation. Instead, each Province has the power to govern gambling in all its forms. Whilst this may seem fair it has created a lot of headaches. Take for example in Quebec, where there is an on-going legal battle about online gambling. This stems from Loto-Quebec who have been accused of trying to create a ‘state monopoly'. Founded in 1969, Loto-Quebec provides many gambling options from casino games, lotteries and sports betting. For many years Loto-Quebec has enjoyed controlling the market. In 2015, this all changed when more and more off-shore casinos entered the market. Not wanting to lose their control Loto-Quebec tried to push strong legislation. This legislation involved banning offshore casinos. Loto-Quebec wanted to achieve this by forcing internet service providers to block international online casinos. Meaning, if you wanted to gamble online in Quebec you would only have one choice Loto Quebec. Many people argued this would break the idea of net neutrality.
For 3 years this legislation made its way through the Canadian Courts. Until finally, on July 18th 2018 the Superior Court rejected Quebec's legislation. The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association who opposed the plans were pleased with the ruling. A spokesperson for the CWTA said in an email:
We have always been clear all Canadians are better served by a proportionate and symmetrical set of regulations than a patchwork of provincial ones
Loto Quebec and the government of Quebec were less pleased. Since then, the Attorney General of Quebec made an appeal with the Department of Justice.
This is just in one province and it is not likely to be the last. Without clear laws from Justin Trudeau's government more uncertainty lies ahead.
Why Justin Trudeau and his government should care about online gambling
Gambling in all its form is a major contributor to the Canadian economy. Despite this, gambling does not receive a lot of government attention.
Here, are some of the key facts:
- CAD$9 billion dollars each year from gambling funds government and community projects
- Supplies over 135,000 jobs
- Online gambling is one of the fastest growing sectors
- The largest segment of Canada's entertainment industry
- More than over 100 land-based casinos operate in Canada
- Over 60% of Canadian adults have gambled in the past 3 years
As Quebec launches a fresh appeal, it is important that Prime Minister Trudeau makes a stand. There is nothing in Canadian law that opposes online casinos offshore or otherwise. Failing to act in this case, means supporting a Loto-Quebec monopoly. If Canadians wish to gamble online, they should be free to do and the government should create clearer laws. Failure to provide for a modern 21st century Canada shows a lack of forward-thinking. Something Justin Trudeau should think about.