Industry Reports

Quebec Superior Court Rebuffs Province’s Attempt to Suspend Access to Gambling Websites

The Quebec Superior Court has put an end to the provinces’ controversial attempt to suspend its residents’ access to gambling websites which are being run without a permission of the state-run gambling corporation.

Justice Pierre Nollet released a ruling, under which the province’s legislation is not in accordance with the federal constitution, as it violates the jurisdiction of the federal government when it comes to telecommunications and the Criminal Code. According to the ruling dated July 18th, the main objective of the legislation was to prevent access to private online gambling rather protect customers’ best interests or public health.

Back in 2016, the province of Quebec adopted a piece of legislation under which Internet service providers were forced to block local citizens’ access to online gambling sites which were not given the green light by Loto-Quebec. In spite of the fact that the Finance Minister Carlos Leitao had said that the piece of legislation was needed to make sure that the health and safety of the province’s residents are well protected, the step sparkled some controversy as it was unprecedented in Canada. The province’s Minister of Finance had previously estimated that the piece of legislation could bring up to CA$27 million to Quebec-owned gambling website Espacejeux on a yearly basis.

The customer protection law faced a fierce opposition which blamed the provincial Government for trying to impose censorship on part of the Internet which is not in line with the concept of net neutrality.

Quebec’s Bill 74 Faces Fierce Opposition

The law was challenged in court by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), which argued that the province of Quebec does not have the right to roll out a piece of legislation which violated federal competencies. According to its claims, it is the Canadian Radio-television and Communications Commission (CRTC) which has the right to regulate Internet providers under the provisions of the Telecommunications Act.

As mentioned above, the Superior Court Justice found that a section of the legislation called Bill 74 was invalid due to the fact that telecommunications are regulated by the exclusive scope of federal jurisdiction.

A spokesman of the CWTA said in an e-mailed statement that the Association was pleased with the Quebec Superior Court ruling, as it was always willing to make sure that all citizens of Canada are being served by a fair and transparent federal regulatory rules than a “patchwork” of provincial regulations. In addition, the Association had claimed that the law of the province would be not only difficult but also expensive to implement, due to the fact that many Internet providers are not capable of blocking content by province.

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association was not the only one that opposed to the Quebec Bill 74. A number of consumer groups also disagreed with the piece of legislation, saying that the latter breached one of the main principles of online content – the one of net neutrality. The CRTC also got involved in the matter, after sending a letter in which it said that it only grants permission to block websites in so-called “exceptional circumstances”.