(Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Mario Beauregard)

How Can Quebec’s Bill 74 Affect Hockey Betting in Canada?

The state of sports betting in Canada is controversial at best. The current laws do regulate sports betting but limit it to parlay betting, which means that betting on single events is not possible – at least not legally – in the country. While Canada surely has a few celebrity-infused sports betting stories that reveal big bets, cool payouts and chose shaves, its betting scene is far less “animated” than the one in other countries or in Nevada, USA. But sports betting is not banned per se, like in most U.S. states, it’s just limited which determines punters in many provinces to seek out a more flexible alternative – offshore.

But local online gambling operators, especially Loto-Quebec, which happen to be the provinces’ lottery corporation, as mandated by the applicable laws – doesn’t seem to like competition, especially since it has a state-mandated monopoly on gambling in this province of Canada. Thus, the company seeks to ban the access of all its competitors to the local market. And it plans to do so through a bill that is as controversial as it is radical: Bill 74, as it is called, would ban the access of locals to international betting and gambling sites at the level of ISPs, or internet service providers.

The bill was proposed and approved by Quebec’s legislators in May 2016 – and it was quickly challenged in court by the country’s national telecom operators, and rejected by the national telecom regulator Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission as an “unlawful intrusion” into its jurisdiction. This didn’t stop the bill, though, only delayed it – Loto Quebec continues to act under the assumption that the provisions of the bill will take effect at a future date, and proceeds to strengthen its IT infrastructure to be able to handle the massive surge in punters, poker players and casino players that will probably assault its website once it does.

How would this affect betting on ice hockey, you might ask? Well, for starters, it will serve as a precedent for other provinces to pass similar legislation. What makes it more dangerous that they will be able to do so to protect their monopoly on one service or another – in this case, it’s sports betting and online casinos, other times it may be something entirely different. And when this happens – and it just might – the variety of betting options available to punters will be considerably reduced. Unless, of course, the regulation of sports betting is changed – but let’s face it, this is a highly unlikely measure for the legislators to consider.