Five provincial lottery corporations have created a new pan-Canadian coalition to protect Canadians from unregulated online gambling. The Coalition of Provincial Lottery Corporations (CPLC) is calling on the Canadian federal government to help. Its goal is to take action against misleading online gambling advertisements, prevent offshore gaming websites from serving their residents, and keep lottery money in the provinces.
The coalition comprises:
- British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC),
- Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis (AGLC),
- Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation (MLLC),
- Loto-Québec, and
- Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC)
In Canada, commercial gambling is illegal unless “conducted and managed” by provincial governments. However, online casinos operating out of other countries are beyond the reach of Canadian law. Since the government doesn’t act against them, the industry considers Canada a gray market. Such websites are generally accessible to Canadians, who may not be aware of their dubious legal status.
Patrick Daigle, President and CEO of ALC, commented in a press release:
Research shows that the majority of players are unaware of whether an online site is legal in their province or not, This is a significant amount of money that could be staying right here in our region to fund public services, but instead continues to be taken away from helping our communities to the sole benefit of illegal operators.
AGLC CEO Kandice Machado also made a statement explaining her organization’s concerns with the advertisements that drive players to the offshore websites.
“Illegal operators see the Canadian landscape on a whole as ripe for the taking… They are using misleading advertising to dominate the market, offering countless opportunities for Canadians to – often unknowingly – engage in illegal betting.”
An Explosion of Gambling Ads on Canadian Screens
Online gambling advertisements have become nearly inescapable for any Canadian with cable or internet access. They appear at sporting events, in apps, during streaming videos, and virtually everywhere else a screen or sign space is available.
Generally, these ads are for play money websites with URLs ending with .net. That makes them legal to advertise, as they are technically not gambling websites. However, they’re invariably affiliated with real money casinos and sportsbooks and will send users there once enticed by the ads.
The explosion of gambling ads came not long after the Canadian federal government legalized single-game sports betting in August 2021. Ontario was one of the first provinces to seize that opportunity and has since become the first to launch privatized online casinos and sportsbooks in Canada.
Notably, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and Ontario Lottery and Gaming are absent from the coalition.
Quebec has made attempts at blocking websites in the past
The province of Quebec has already made one attempt on its own to block illegal online gambling in the province. In May 2016, it passed a bill demanding that internet service providers prevent customers from visiting any site on a blacklist of offshore operators.
The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association immediately asked for the bill to be struck down. It consulted with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and managed to prevent immediate action on the bill.
The Superior Court declared in 2018 that blocking internet communications would violate Freedom of Expression as protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (part of the Canadian Constitution). The Court of Appeal affirmed that decision in 2021. Any province attempting to deny access to certain websites directly is likely to find itself opening the same proverbial can of worms.
The coalition’s request to the federal government will be something to watch. Changing national policies and diverging approaches by provinces have created a confusing situation for Canadians. If the CPLC and the federal government can work together, they may find a way to make the situation both safer and easier to understand.