How Interested Are Online Poker Operators in Québec? How Interested Are Online Poker Operators in Québec?

Québec enters the New Year with the provincial lottery, Loto-Québec, as the only legal source for igaming. But the winds of change were blowing in 2023.

An industry-led group, the Québec Online Gaming Coalition (QOGC), formed in May. The group met with government officials — whom they hope to someday convince to abandon the current model in favor of a market similar to neighboring Ontario’s — over the summer. QOGC and the government continue to communicate.

Multi-jurisdictional poker has also been floated by the QOGC, and to allow operators to combine player pools in Ontario and Québec.

Last month, a survey commissioned by the QOGC found 67% of Québecers favor setting up an igaming market in Québec similar to that in Ontario. It also found that only 26.6% of respondents use Espace Jeux, Loto-Québec’s platform, for igaming — meaning illegal offshore sites remain popular, something the QOGC has impressed upon the government.

Who’s Coming? Look to the West

It’s very likely that we already know what operators would launch online poker in Québec if it launched a system similar to Ontario’s. But is one operator more likely to launch in the French-speaking province more than others? We rank their likelihood of launching using a five-point scale featuring the fleur-de-lis (aka ⚜️).

For starters, let’s establish that the most likely market entrants in Québec are already live in neighboring Ontario. We expect that the six active poker rooms in Ontario spread across four networks — GGPoker/WSOP Ontario, and PokerStars Ontario, 888poker, the BetMGM Network — will be interested in launching in the province.

Which would come to Québec first is open to debate, but based upon what we’ve seen so far, we think this is the order they could announce their intention to launch in the province — which is obviously predicated on the idea that provincial authorities would welcome private operators.

GGPoker Québec

GG online poker room QuébecWe’ll kick things off with GGPoker, which has been the top online poker site in Ontario, in terms of cash game traffic, for much of 2023. It also has a lucrative partnership with WSOP in Ontario, but it’s not clear if that partnership could include Québec.

Shared liquidity from a launch in Québec would help GGPoker stay ahead of its rivals, but the operator is also lucky for two reasons:

  • As sponsor, GGPoker gets to hold the official WSOP online bracelet series and other events in Ontario where players can win iconic gold bracelets or entries to the annual World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas. If the partnership includes Québec, that would give GGPoker an edge.
  • It has arguably the most famous Canadian poker star as a brand ambassador — Daniel Negreanu

GGPoker was the last market entrant in Ontario, joining in September 2022, but we think it is the most interested potential suitor in Québec.

Interest Rating: 5/5 — Allons-y! (Let’s Go!) ⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️

PokerStars Québec

PokerStars online poker room QuébecPokerStars was one of the world’s most well-known online poker brands in the early 2010s when an online task force in Québec compared Espace Jeux to the most popular private operators.

It’s still one of the most well-known brands today, and likely remains a popular destination for Québecers today. It was also a late entrant in Ontario, joining the field in June 2022.

PokerStars is GGPoker’s biggest competition in neighboring Ontario, cash game traffic from GameIntel show. Since GGPoker likely wants to deploy in Québec to stay atop the field, so, too would PokerStars as it looks to keep pace.

Interest Rating: 5/5 — Nous aussi! (Us too!) ⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️

BetMGM Poker Québec

BetMGM online poker room QuébecBetMGM is actually part of a three-site network in Ontario that includes bwin and partypoker — two Entain brands. (Entain also owns half of BetMGM, MGM Resorts International owns the other half).

Cash game data show the BetMGM Network is the third-largest network in Ontario — and it’s a distant third. Launching in Québec, and presumably combining with its player pool in Ontario, would allow BetMGM to hold its position and perhaps move up in the long run.

But consider that BetMGM also has yet to combine its player pools in Michigan and New Jersey. Deploying in Québec is one matter, but the operator has shown signs that it is in no rush to combine player pools.

Interest Rating: 4/5 — Nous serions intéressés! (We would be interested!) ⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️

888poker Québec

888 online poker room QuébecThat brings us to 888poker, which launched in Ontario on the day the market opened in April 2022. Unfortunately for 888, it would only lead the market for another month before being relegated to the cellar in terms of cash game traffic.

888poker Ontario usually has less than 40 active players, according to cash game data from GameIntel. Often times, it has less than 30. It set a record concurrent 58 cash game seats on April 11, 2022, but it’s never approached that level since.

The future of parent company 888 Holdings has been a question mark for some time. Most recently, DraftKings and Playtech expressed interest in acquiring the company. Neither did.

Still, 888 is a well-known brand, and it today operates in the province from offshore. It would likely want to offer its products in Québec.

Interest Rating: 3.5/5 — Pourqoui pas? (Why not?) ⚜️⚜️⚜️ ½

Run It Once Poker Québec

Run It Once online poker room QuébecWho’s left? That would be Run It Once Poker, the online poker platform that Rush Street Interactive (RSI) bought in March 2022 and currently has in development.

Few details about where RSI would deploy Run It Once are known. Presumably, the Chicago-based operator would look to deploy its poker platform in jurisdictions with large online casinos operations — place like Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania come to mind.

Québec makes the cut. With 8.5 million people, Canada’s second-most populous province is a potentially large market that RSI would likely be very interested in entering. But it remains unclear just how pressing a launch in Québec — or indeed, any Canadian province — is to RSI.

Interest Rating: 2/5 — Peut-être! (Perhaps!!) ⚜️⚜️