Canada is a pretty attractive market for international online gambling operators for many reasons. Among them, there’s the fact that they have virtually no competition. While the possibility for provincial lottery corporations to launch their own online casino businesses does exist, currently only four of the ten Canadian provinces have such services, offered by three lotteries – the BCLC, the OLG, and Loto Quebec, serving players from British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. Residents of other provinces can either play their favorite games in land-based locations (where these exist, of course) or can go online and play at offshore gaming venues. With no local Canadian casinos online, this is their only possibility to play conveniently and in a casual way.
The Canadian government, in turn, pushes to change this situation by implementing a pretty restrictive policy: to prevent Canadian players from accessing offshore gaming operators by blocking their websites at the ISPs in the country. Would this grow the usage – and profits – of the local operators? Of course, it would. But would this be the right thing to do?
A state monopoly
In Canada, online gambling is a state monopoly. No company except for the provinces’ own lottery corporations can offer online gambling services to locals. This sounds great at first, given that the lotteries are not-for-profit corporations that pour all their proceedings back into the purses of their respective provinces. The keyword here is “monopoly”, though, which usually doesn’t mean anything good for the consumer.
When first proposed, the blocking of access to offshore gambling venues has attracted a lot of criticism. While online gambling itself is a controversial topic, internet censorship is even more controversial. One might argue that similar measures have been put in place in other countries, namely in Romania, that blocked all non-licensed online casinos, and Australia, that blocked access to all online poker and casino websites. But there’s a fundamental difference between Canada’s plan and either of the two.
In Romania, there is no state monopoly on gambling. Any company can obtain a license and be unblocked right away. In Australia, ALL forms of online gambling (except for sports betting) are illegal, with nobody, not even the state, being an exception. Put this way, Canada’s measure is nothing but a plan to consolidate monopoly and grow profits by simply abusing of power and eliminating the competition.
Unethical and stupid?
Banning a business’ access to a market to protect one’s own through such measures is unethical, period. And banning a business’ access to a market that has no local alternative is, simply put, stupid. If lottery corporations can (and why couldn’t they) they should provide locals with a service before banning their access to their offshore alternatives. Otherwise, the whole blocking measure misses its point, preventing locals’ access to a form of entertainment they want – and are willing to pay for.by