BUSINESS

Quebec To Block Gambling Websites, Mulls Internet Tax

03/27/2015 12:03 EDT | Updated 03/31/2015 09:59 EDT

The government of Quebec is planning to introduce a law that will require internet providers to block access to gambling websites, a move one prominent internet law expert calls “possibly illegal.”

As part of the provincial budget introduced yesterday, the provincial Liberal government of Premier Phillippe Couillard announced plans to empower Loto-Québec to draw up a list of “illegal online gambling” websites that internet providers would be required to block.

The government’s economic plan makes clear that the point of the move is to improve revenue at Loto-Québec, the province-run corporation that runs lotteries and casinos.

It estimates the measures will increase revenue by $13.5 million in 2016-2017 and $27 million in following years.

University of Ottawa internet law professor Michael Geist wrote in a blog post Friday that the move is “possibly illegal” because, while gambling on them may be illegal for Quebecers, simply viewing gambling websites isn’t.

To legislate blocking for commercial gain sets a dangerous Canadian precedent,” Geist wrote.

“Once blocking gaming and gambling sites is established, it is easy to envision the government requiring blocking of sites that are alleged to infringe copyright or blocking e-commerce sites that are not bilingual or do not pay provincial taxes.”

Geist predicted the law could be challenged in the courts because telecommunications regulations are the federal government’s jurisdiction. But Quebec would likely counter it has a right to enforce gambling and consumer protection laws, which fall under provincial jurisdiction.

The budget document also announced that Quebec is moving forward with a study on whether to implement an internet tax to pay for support to cultural industries.

Though no estimate of how much the tax on internet service would be, Geist noted that it would come “at the very time when governments are concerned with improving affordability.”

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