Quebec’s government has crafted new legislation that requires Internet services providers (ISPs) to altogether block users’ access to unlicensed online gambling sites. The new legislation is included in a wider omnibus bill that lays out the government’s spring budget. Specifically, the bill provides that, “an Internet service provider may not give access to an online gambling site whose operation is not authorized under Québec law.”
Quebec’s lottery commission is responsible for establishing the list of banned websites: “The Société des loteries du Québec shall oversee the accessibility of online gambling. It shall draw up a list of unauthorized online gambling sites and provide the list . . . which shall send it to Internet service providers by registered mail.“
Also, according to the law: “An Internet service provider that receives the list of unauthorized online gambling sites . . . shall, within 30 days after receiving the list, block access to those sites.“
The mandate to ISPs is unprecedented in the country and will likely face legal challenges.
Currently, Canada’s federal government has cooperated with the private sector in blocking access to child pornography images, but the law banning the viewing of child pornography is quite different from this type of website blocking.
Many believe that the Quebec government views this initiative as having revenue-enhancing potential because it wants to direct gamblers to its own government-run online gaming site. A 2014 report determined that the government site was not meeting its revenue targets since people were using other gambling sites. The government predicts that the new website blocking legislation will increase government revenues by $13.5 million in the next fiscal year and $27 million annually thereafter.
According to many critics, the Quebec government is seeking to censor the Internet for its own financial gain by requiring that ISPs block access to any unregulated sites. The legal challenges the plan is likely to face will include jurisdictional and free speech grounds.