The coalition believes that the introduction of regulation would allow the Québec government to earn revenues over and above those already offered by the current system and that these new funds should be reinvested these funds in key sectors of the Québec economy. Could Québec follow Ontario’s lead and become the next Canadian province with a regulated poker market? A new coalition of operators and other iGaming entities could help make that a reality.
Quebecers currently have limited options for iGaming. There are no private operators — only the products of the provincial lottery, Loto-Québec. The lottery has offered sports betting through its sportsbook, Mise-O-Jeu, since 2004. Six years later, it launched online casino games through its Espace Jeux platform.
Loto-Québec also offers peer-to-peer online poker in Québec on Espace Jeux. Quebecers on the site have access to the Canada Poker Network (CPN), a multi-provincial network that includes British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Québec. An old version of IGT software powers the CPN but provides shared liquidity for players in all four provinces.
Some players in Québec are drawn to the gray market — just as players in neighboring Ontario were until that province launched a regulated market for online poker, casino gaming, and sports betting in April 2022.
Sports betting has been legal across Canada since the Parliament of Canada passed legislation in August 2021 authorizing the vertical. In Québec, the provincial lottery holds a monopoly on sports betting.
Coalition Wants Private Operators OK’d
The newly formed Québec Online Gaming Coalition (QOGC) aims to change the status quo and have a system where private operators — like 888poker, BetMGM, GGPoker, and PokerStars — can launch in the province, according to Canada Gaming Review.
According to QOGC, a regulated market based on licensing private operators was precisely what a group of academics had recommended to the Québec government back in 2014. But the coalition said the academics’ recommendations were shelved by the previous provincial government, allowing Ontario to take the lead and become the first province to launch a regulated market.
QOGC wants Québec to be next.
The group pledged to work with the provincial government in Québec on developing a regulated framework for expanded iGaming that resembles Ontario’s. It added that regulated Québec online poker, casino gaming, and sports betting would provide tax revenue and increased problem gambling protections.
“The coalition believes that the introduction of regulation would allow the Québec government to earn revenues over and above those already offered by the current system and that these new funds should be reinvested these funds in key sectors of the Québec economy,” QOGC said in a statement Tuesday.
When a regulated Québec online poker market could launch is unclear, but the market would be a big one. Québec is Canada’s second-most populous province, with about 8.7 million residents.
Québec could one day welcome the likes of 888poker, BetMGM, GGPoker, and PokerStars for online poker. It may also welcome BetRivers — its parent, Rush Street Interactive (RSI), is developing an online poker platform based upon Run It Once (RIO) Poker.
Several Operators Banded Together to Launch QOGC
Eight entities, including six iGaming companies, are the first members of QOGC:
- Apricot Investments Limited
- Entain plc
- Flutter Entertainment
- Games Global Limited
- Rush Street Interactive (RSI)
Bet99, Betway, DraftKings, FanDuel, PokerStars, and RSI’s flagship brand, BetRivers, are each licensed to provide sports betting and online casino gaming in Ontario. BetMGM, the 50-50 joint venture between Entain and MGM Resorts International, also holds a license.
BetMGM and PokerStars are also licensed for online poker in Ontario. The operators would presumably be interested in offering Québec online poker as well.
Entain’s portfolio in Ontario also includes partycasino for online casino gaming and partysports for online sports betting. Its bwin and Sports Interaction brands offer both verticals, while partypoker is Entain’s poker platform.
FanDuel and PokerStars are both Flutter brands. Meanwhile, Apricot Investments Limited is a venture capital firm with a portfolio of assets in the gaming industry, and Games Global Limited is an iGaming supplier.
Stacked with operators, the coalition aims to persuade the Québec government to allow private companies to launch in the province — if for no other reason than the province stands to make more money in tax revenue through a revamped system rather than sticking with the current one.
“[A] licensing system and regulation has allowed the Ontario government to receive substantial revenues from private gaming operators, estimated at more than $380 million CDN ($279.5 million USD) in the first year,” QOGC said.