Ten years ago, an online gaming task force recommended a regulated market of private poker operators. Québec gave the lottery a monopoly instead. Now, an industry-led coalition wants Québec to consider a model similar to Ontario’s. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about the state of gaming in Québec.
Last updated: September 30, 2023
Québecers have had access to online poker since December 2010 when the provincial lottery, Loto-Québec, launched its igaming platform, Espace Jeux.
Unfortunately, since then, that’s been the only place where residents can legally play online poker in Québec. All other offshore online poker sites are considered illegal, although the province doesn’t actively restrict access to such sites and many are regulated in places like Malta and the Isle of Man. These sites operate in the gray market — technically not legal, but the government turns a bit of a blind eye to them.
An industry-led coalition has recently formed. Its goal is to convince the provincial government in Québec to abandon its current model — where Loto-Québec holds a monopoly on igaming — and replace it with regulated online poker, similar to the arrangement in the neighboring Canadian province of Ontario.
If the Québec government agrees and creates a new regulated space for online poker, the province could see big-name operators like 888poker, BetMGM, PokerStars, and WSOP lining up to launch there.
Watch this space for updates on the future of online poker in Québec as developments unfold.
|Online Poker in Québec|
|📢 Status||Online poker is available, but the only option considered legal is Espace Jeux, the iGaming platform for Loto-Québec, the provincial lottery. All other sites are regulated offshore.|
|📅 Date Legalized||Espace Jeux was launched in December 2010.|
|👥 Population||8.5 Million|
|🔥 Potential Québec Poker Rooms||888poker Québec, BetMGM Poker Québec, GGPoker Québec, PokerStars Québec|
|🏆 Potential Québec Tournaments||PokerStars Québec Championship of Online Poker (QCOOP) & Québec Spring Championship of Online Poker (QSCOOP), WSOP Gold Ring Online Circuit Series & Gold Bracelet Series|
|⚖️ Regulated By||N/A|
|🔞 Legal Age to Gamble||18+|
Loto-Québec launched its igaming platform, Espace Jeux, in December 2010. All other sites for online poker are regulated offshore.
Despite this, players in Québec had access to about 2,000 online gaming sites when an online gambling task force assembled by the provincial government looked at the issue in the early 2010s. Over 500 gaming sites had a platform in French. Those numbers are likely similar today.
The task force also discovered that while the province’s criminal code prohibits illegal lotteries and games of chance, sites that the province considers illegal are still readily accessible, and enforcement of the code in this area is lax. It should be noted, however, that authorities regulate such sites in places like Malta and the Isle of Man.
A taxpayer-funded report on the status of igaming in Québec and a list of recommendations by the task force was presented to the provincial government in 2014. But the government in office at the time shelved the report, demurring the idea of replacing the monopoly Loto-Québec enjoys with a system based on issuing licenses to private operators.
An industry-led coalition, the Québec Online Gaming Coalition (QOGC), hopes to convince the current government to adopt a regulated market for online poker similar to the one in neighboring Ontario. In a twist, Ontario regulators used many of the recommendations in the report that Québec taxpayers paid for helping build their regulated market.
The QOGC met with provincial government officials and lawmakers in the summer of 2023. The talks were considered productive, and the coalition said it is in regular contact with the Finance Ministry and other stakeholders. The NBA, MLS, and (perhaps most importantly) the CFL all support the idea of Québec adopting a similar model for igaming as Ontario, according to the QOGC.
Loto-Québec reported that its gaming sector generated $50.2 million [USD] from online casino in Q1. By comparison, Ontario reported $297.8 million in the vertical during the same quarter. QOGC said revenue comparisons were difficult without a framework to analyze the data, but it estimates that the Québec government could earn a minimum of $169.2 million annually in additional revenues by licensing private operators.
What we need to focus on first is getting the Québec government to see the reality and addressing the fact that the system is currently no longer working. Although the online gambling task force assembled by the Québec government in the early 2010s compared Espace Jeux to the top five commercial poker operators at the time, a spokesperson for the Québec Online Gaming Coalition (QOGC) said it was too early to speculate whether Québec would permit multi-jurisdictional or interprovincial online poker — perhaps even with a shared player pool with neighboring Ontario.
Then again, consider that the parent companies of BetMGM and PokerStars are QOGC members. Both offer online poker.
“At this point, we’d be getting ahead of ourselves going into that level of detail,” QOGC spokesperson Nathalie Bergeron told Poker Industry PRO in an exclusive. “What we need to focus on first is getting the Québec government to see the reality and address the fact that the system is currently no longer working.
“Once we’ve made that headway, going into more technical details with the different offerings from the members will be the next step.”
Canada has nothing like the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), a gaming compact in the US for interstate online poker that includes Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, and New Jersey.
But players in Québec have access to the Canadian Poker Network (CPN), an informal multi-provincial compact that currently includes British Columbia (BC), Manitoba, and Québec and will soon feature Saskatchewan. The provinces share liquidity with each other.
The CPN was formed in February 2011 and is powered by an outdated version of IGT software. The network started when the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) offered Espace Jeux peer-to-peer poker. Players in BC, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan use the BCLC’s PlayNow platform to access the network.
Assuming the provincial government in Québec adopts a model where a future regulatory agency licenses private operators, we expect the most likely market entrants will fall into two categories — operators that already have operations in neighboring Ontario and operators that ran (and likely continue to run) regulated sites offshore, but which are still popular with players for a variety of socio-economic reasons.
There are six active online poker rooms in Ontario across four networks — 888poker, the BetMGM Network, GGPoker/WSOP, and PokerStars. The BetMGM Network shares a player pool between three Entain platforms — BetMGM Poker, bwin, and partypoker.
Since the six operators in Ontario are already deployed in the largest regulated market for online poker in North America, it seems likely that all six would want to launch in Québec as well, should the French-speaking province decide to adopt a similar model.
When an online task force in the early 2010s compared Espace Jeux with the most popular poker sites, they studied five operators — 888poker, Full Tilt Poker, partypoker, PokerStars, and William Hill Poker. Full Tilt is defunct today, but William Hill and other operators could be interested in deploying in a regulated market in Québec.
Playtech could launch its iPoker platform in the province. Several European operators, including bet365 and Betsafe, are all active on iPoker in other jurisdictions. Sweden’s Betsson AB, an online poker giant in Europe, could also potentially be interested in joining an iPoker network in Québec.
Considering Québec is the second-most populous province in Canada (after Ontario), coupled with its neighbor’s success with regulated online poker, the entry of six or more operators at a launch in Québec is certainly within the realm of possibilities.
|PokerStars||Joined the regulated space in Ontario in June 2022.|
|GGPoker/WSOP||The last market entrant in Ontario. It joined in September 2022.|
|888poker||Was the first to launch in Ontario, doing so on the market’s first day.|
|BetMGM Network||BetMGM Poker Ontario launched on the second day of the regulated market. The network includes bwin and partypoker, two Entain brands.|
|Run It Once Poker||Currently in development by Rush Street Interactive (RSI).|
PokerStars is one of the world’s most well-known online poker brands. It was a late entrant to Ontario’s regulated market, only joining in late June 2022.
The late entry by PokerStars (and WSOP) into the Ontario market caused a bit of a stir — critics said that by giving the two operators more time to exit the gray market, Ontario regulators created a de facto two-tiered system in online poker that hurt consumers and gave offshore operators an unfair advantage.
PokerStars and WSOP used the additional time in Ontario to sign up players. If Québec adopts an igaming model that licenses private operators, the province should try to avoid fairness pitfalls like Ontario faced with letting operators like PokerStars and WSOP delay their exit from the gray market.
GGPoker has a partnership with WSOP in neighboring Ontario, but it’s not clear if that partnership would be extended to Québec should the province decide to adopt a system where it would issue licenses to private operators.
GGPoker was the last online poker operator to launch in the regulated Ontario market, doing so on September 30, 2022.
Despite the late launch, GGPoker/WSOP Ontario is one of the province’s top two online poker networks in terms of cash game traffic. The poker room typically averages between 200 and 300 real money players, according to GameIntel.
GG is also fortunate that it gets to hold the official WSOP online bracelet series and other events where players win iconic gold bracelets or entries to the annual World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas.
888poker launched in neighboring Ontario on the first day the market opened — April 4, 2022. That day remains the only one on the calendar where 888 can unequivocally state that it had the most popular online poker room in Ontario.
Things have been tough for 888 in Ontario since then. Cash game traffic shows the operator consistently draws fewer players than its rivals on the BetMGM Network, GGPoker/WSOP, and PokerStars. 888poker Ontario usually has less than 40 active players, according to data from GameIntel.
But 888 is still a competitive force in Ontario — with its eponymously named products for poker (888poker), casino gaming (888casino), and sports betting (888sports). It will probably be interested in launching in a regulated Québec market because it could offer the same product suite there.
BetMGM, a joint venture between Entain and MGM Resorts International, launched online poker in Ontario on the second day the market was open. One week later, Entain brands bwin and partypoker also launched in the province, effectively creating a three-skin online poker network with BetMGM.
Team BetMGM is the third-largest online poker network in Ontario in terms of cash game traffic. The network averages between 100 and 200 concurrent cash game players, according to GameIntel.
If Québec overhauls its igaming system, it’s hard to imagine Entain and MGM wouldn’t want their successful JV platform of BetMGM in the mix. Entain is likely to add bwin and partypoker for good measure.
Another possible market entrant is Run It Once Poker, an online poker platform currently in development by Rush Street Interactive (RSI).
Chicago-based RSI acquired Run It Once, the brainchild of poker pro and guru Phil Galfond, in March 2022. It announced plans to integrate online poker and many of the features that Galfond and his team of developers had created into the RSI platform.
RSI has been opaque about its plans for online poker, but a launch is anticipated in late 2023 or sometime in 2024. Galfond suggested on social media that RSI plans to launch an online poker platform under the name Run It Once Poker, Powered by BetRivers.
BetRivers is already live in neighboring Ontario with online casino gaming and sports betting. It’s likely to begin offering online poker in that province once Run It Once is ready. Any launch in Ontario would likely preclude a launch in Québec if conditions are made favorable.
To be clear, Ontario won’t be the only source of potential operators to launch regulated online poker in Québec. There are likely other operators that are waiting to see how things develop.
For example, Playtech could launch its iPoker platform in the province, opening an opportunity for several European operators — including bet365 and Betsafe — to offer online poker in Québec. But Playtech would likely need to be licensed by a future regulator before being allowed to launch such a network.
Another possibility would be for SI Poker — borne of a partnership between 888 and the parent company of Sports Illustrated (SI) — to launch in Québec, although it’s unclear if the partnership agreement extends to Canada. SI Poker doesn’t exist yet, but in the US, 888 and Authentic Brands Group (ABS) have talked about developing SI-themed online poker, casino, and sports betting products. SI Casino launched in Michigan in February 2023.
Yes, online poker is legal in Québec. However, legal online poker is only available through Espace Jeux, the igaming platform of the provincial lottery, Loto-Québec. All other sites are considered part of the gray market and are unregulated.
Yes. Residents have the option to play online poker for real money in Québec on Espace Jeux.
Currently, residents of Québec interested in playing online poker may only do so on Espace Jeux, the igaming website for Loto-Québec, the provincial lottery. Loto-Québec has a monopoly on igaming in the province, so all other sites for online poker are considered illegal. Espace Jeux is considered a reliable site and has had few incidents involving players.
Learn more about staying safe while playing online in How Do I Choose a Safe Online Poker Room? 6 Things to Look Out For
Yes, the Espace Jeux app allows Québecers to play poker on their smartphone or tablet.
Yes. Québec players can find bonuses and promos on Espace Jeux, the igaming site run by the provincial lottery, Loto-Québec. All other sites for online poker are regulated offshore. Unfortunately, it’s likely that special incentives — including welcome bonuses, deposit bonuses, freeroll tournaments, loyalty programs, and special promotions — are more generous on offshore sites. The situation should improve if Québec adopts an igaming model similar to Ontario’s.
Québec players have access to various secure payment methods for depositing and withdrawing funds. Common options include credit and debit cards, e-wallets (such as PayPal and Skrill), bank transfers, and prepaid cards. Interac, a popular debit card system across Canada, is also accepted.
Yes, reputable online poker sites like Espace Jeux use sophisticated random number generators (RNGs) to ensure fair gameplay. Sites like Espace Jeux use advanced security measures, including encryption technology, to protect players’ personal and financial information.
No, online poker players in Québec cannot play against players in other countries in any regulated poker room because there is only one legal option for online poker in the province — Espace Jeux, the igaming site for the provincial lottery, Loto-Québec. Espace Jeux does not have shared liquidity with other countries.
You must be 18 years or older to play online poker or take part in other forms of gambling in Québec.
Yes. In the absence of a regulatory agency in charge of gaming in the province, the provincial lottery, Loto-Québec, is tasked with ensuring responsible gambling protections for players in the province. Many people, including an industry-led coalition calling for igaming reforms in Québec, are critical of this setup since Loto-Québec has a commercial interest in igaming. Supporters of igaming reform in Québec have said an independent regulator would be a more appropriate entity to put in charge of responsible gaming in the province.
PokerStars and the other top online poker operators in the US — BetMGM and WSOP — are not currently regulated in Québec and are only active in the gray market. The only site that legally offers online poker in Québec is Espace Jeux, the igaming site for the provincial lottery, Loto-Québec.
We do not recommend playing at offshore poker sites, as they do not offer the same consumer protection level as legal, regulated sites. Players on offshore sites are at a high risk of lost deposits and identity theft because they are disclosing their financial and personal information to unregulated sites. In the US, federal officials have warned its citizens not to use offshore sites because they have no legal recourse to collect winnings owed to them. pro