he so-called Bill 74 has quickly gained a lot of opponents who expressed their concerns that Quebecers will no longer have open, free Internet access at their disposal.
According to the provisions Quebec residents will be granted access only to websites that have received government’s approval.
Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said that the bill is intended to protect residents as the illegal gambling sites expose them to unnecessary risks and promote dishonest gambling practices.
Opponents of Bill 74 did not miss to remind that if the bill passes, Quebec will be the first Canadian province to impose such unprecedented Internet censoring regulations. What is more, Bill 74 is said to confront with the established telecommunications law as well as the freedom of expression Canada has always been supporting. Internet companies, as well as groups defending the civil rights, are expected to start a legal battle.
Online gambling sites are the main reason why Loto-Quebec reports weak revenues. Blocking illegal providers would prevent young people from accessing gambling sites that do not ensure a safe gambling environment. At the same time, blocking unauthorized operators would have a beneficial effect on Loto-Quebec revenue.
People with knowledge of the matter say that Quebec government has several alternatives to blocking the sites. Authorities can ask the most commonly used payment methods to stop processing transactions to and from unauthorized gambling websites. They can also ask foreign operators to withdraw their services from the Quebec market, although the majority of people consider it unrealistic that Quebec government would manage to persuade illegal operators to voluntarily exit the market.
However, once the unregulated sites are blocked, Loto-Quebec is expected to provide residents with regulated, honest and secure gambling options.
According to representatives of the Internet providers, if the bill is passed into law it would cost them a lot of money to adhere to the new regulations. In addition, bill opponents say that Canada takes pride in being a democratic country and they do not want its laws to resemble those of other countries where the government determines the information residents have access to. They also fear that if Quebec passes Bill 74, it will encourage other provinces to restrict residents’ access to gambling websites.