Quebec Looking To Force ISPs To Block Gambling Sites In Order To Protect Its Own State-Run Gambling Portal

from the there's-nothing-more-sincere-than-a-government-entity-ensuring-its-own-exist dept

Should a government body attempt to block websites for its own financial gain? [To anyone that answered "Yes," I say, "Really?"] This question doesn't seem to be troubling Quebec's government, which submitted a budget that contained the following -- all without uttering a single word like "conflict" or "interest."

In its budget released Thursday, the province said it plans to propose new legislation that would compel Internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to a list of gambling websites drawn up by Loto-Québec.
Loto-Québec, of course, is the province's own revenue stream, which allows citizens to contribute extra funds to their government via games of skill. Great stuff for those who enjoy this more voluntary form of taxation, but the internet is full of other options. And that fact makes Loto-Québec very sad. But the government is always willing to cheer itself up!
The government states its aim is to direct revenues to its own gambling website, Espacejeux, noting Loto-Québec’s revenues have fallen in recent years and stating, “it is only the online gaming market that has growth prospects.”
So, it's hoping to double its money by doubling down on blocking "illegal gambling websites." It cheerfully estimates that -- if it can just get hesitant ISPs on board -- its gambling revenues will generate $13.5 million in 2016-17 and $27 million a year after that, apparently in perpetuity.

Now, there are a lot of fallacies in play here, not the least of which is that budgeted income will always meet planned figures forever -- a conclusion made while operating in a vacuum devoid of external circumstances, perverted incentives or the foibles of the public. But it has to get ISPs to agree to enforce Loto-Quebéc's blacklist first, and so far, ISPs aren't expressing any desire to force their customers into a government-created gambling funnel.
Bram Abramson, chief legal and regulatory officer for independent ISP TekSavvy Solutions Inc., said the proposed legislation raises concerns about the neutral role of Internet providers.

“ISPs are intermediaries and we do what we do best when we act a little bit like utilities: We provide access to the Internet. We should not be put in a position of picking and choosing what people have access to,” he said in an interview Friday.
This is all customers want internet providers to be… all over the world: dumb terminals that provide them access to the Web. They don't want government filtering/blockades, throttling, ISP portals, data caps or anything else governments/ISPs have in mind for them. They want an open pipe and access to the tap. That's it.

But like all of these listed efforts, this too is being done in the [what a crock] "best interests" of Quebec's internet users.
Quebec said the website blocking measure is also aimed at improving public health because “illegal websites do not apply the same responsible gaming rules as Espacejeux. They thus pose a risk to the population, especially young people.”
Ah, yes. The "young people." Who hasn't heard numerous stories about the lasting damages inflicted on unwary youths by rogue gambling sites? Why, it's practically Grand Theft Auto meets the Adult Video Awards in there!

The only thing troubling Quebec's government is the fact that these sites are horning in on its racket. Michael Geist calls it what it is:
…[A] “remarkable and possibly illegal plan as the government seeks to censor the Internet for its own commercial gain.”
And those behind the plan to possibly illegally censor the internet to prop up the province's flagging cash cow just keep doubling down.
In an interview Friday, Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said the measures are not in place yet but he believes implementing them is “perfectly feasible.”

“This applies to gambling sites, unlicensed gambling sites,” the minister said. “So I don’t think there’s an issue of censorship.”
And again, I must say, "Really?" How does a government-ordered blacklist of sites not veer into "censorship" territory, especially when the list of targeted sites was written by a government entity with both eyes on its own bottom line?

Beyond that, blocking doesn't work and it always causes collateral damage. Blocking illegalgamblinghotspot.tu might (MIGHT!) be acceptable (if a really questionable use of government power and resources), but doing so solely to hit budget figures dreamed up by imaginative government reps isn't -- especially considering the province has no direct control over telecoms, which would mean dragging Canada's federal government into this sloppy, ill-conceived turf war.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:15am

    If this were to happen then it will open the floodgates for other sites to be blocked all done so for fear of having to compete with competition.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Paul Clark, 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:25am

    IT Will Drag the Feds In

    To make it more fun, if Quebec bans online gambling sites and they make a claim under one of the so called free trade agreements, the federal government has to pay the compensation to the injured parties. There is really no downside to Quebec for doing this. I am surprised they do not require any Internet site accessible in Quebec to be provided in French.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Thrudd, 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:37am

    Hey don't give them any ideas, they have a hard enough time handling what few they have now.

    But really we already know the answer - they will whine and get what they want until such time the rest of Canada kicks them and Ottawa out on their ass like that unemployed whiny dropout sibling camping on your couch and their enabler stepdad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:37am

    I work for a Canadian ISP, and our legal standings on gambling sites, based on our lawyers, is:
    It is illegal to host the algorithm doing the mathematical calculations in Canada. You can host the site, just can't do the math.

    Someone with better legal background can probably confirm if this is true or why our lawyers told us that.

    I'm not defending them, far from. But if it's really illegal to host gambling algorithms in Canada, then blocking outside sites is not as bad as one would think.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    heads up canada, 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:50am

    Isn't that the same law that gave all IP rights in the US to a small island nation for a couple years because of wto rulings? That nation was awarded the right to license all US ip because of anticompetitive behavior and treaty violations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:56am

    You have to remember that Quebecers think they are french and have the right to do what they want, when they want.

    Their government is so far out of wack with how they think the world sees them. They beleive that everyone likes them, but in reality they are the creepy uncle that's not really related to you that hugs for too long or wants you to sit on his lap and says "dont worry thats just my keys or wallet".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:10am

      Re:

      If you ever visit Montreal remember that 99% of their population ignores the traffic laws, so don't get caught walking on the sidewalks or streets. Thankfully most of the downtown is linked via underground malls so its simple to avoid the suicidal drivers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 12:22pm

        Re: Re:

        As a Quebecer who lives near Montreal and drives there numerous times a year, I wonder what you are talking about, or at least where you are from.

        "Suicidal drivers"

        ... Hyperbole much ?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 12:49pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Suicidal drivers"

          ... Hyperbole much ?


          Yeah, I'm sure he meant to say homicidal drivers.

          I kid, I've never been to Montreal.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Padpaw (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 1:35pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          every time I have visited Montreal, granted it has only been about 6 times so far. 99% of the drivers ignored red lights and drove through them didn't signal turns. generally ignored the laws that if a cop had seen them would have lost them their license.

          It was so bad we had to take the paths that went under the main streets just to be able to get across safely. Otherwise when we tried to cross at the intersections cars would drive through. Almost as if they did not care if they ran people down or crashed into another car that had the right of way.

          Seeing that every time I have gone to that god forsaken city has left a very vivid impression on my mind.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Vladilyich, 27 Apr 2015 @ 6:00am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Welcome to Canada, eh? The driving doesn't get any better in Ontario. II gave up my license when I moved here out of self-defence.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 12:29pm

      Re:

      You have to remember that Quebecers think they are french and have the right to do what they want, when they want.


      The fact that many french Quebecers would say that the rest of Canada think they're english and have the right to do what they want, when they want, should point out how idiotic that statement really is.

      Such french/english division is so last century. We have to collectively move on... The world has changed around us !

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 8:59am

    ...block access to a list of gambling websites drawn up by Loto-Québec...

    ...much like how Netflix blocks Canadians from using the American service. When asked to comment, a VPN tunnel provider laughed until he passed out from lack of oxygen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:02am

    Why can't they just do it the old fashioned way and tax the rival online gambling sites

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:05am

    Someone is thinking with their pocket books but not paying attention to trade agreements.

    The US went through this same idea and 4 states blocked online gambling. Antigua and Barbuda took the US to world court over violations of the GATT treaty. They won their case and have had the ability to ignore US patents, copyrights, and trademarks up to their awarded limit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:08am

    Quebec is pretty much a rogue state. It does what it wants, ignores what it's citizens want and ignore what the federal government demands of it.

    I think us Canadians are just happy they stopped with that ridiculous secessionist talk.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:13am

    Speculation

    I wonder which is greater:

    [A] The cost of resources to investigate, analyse and/or report on 'illegal' gambling sites.

    [B] The supposed increase in revenue once a monopoly is established.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ed Allen, 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:28am

    Of course changng incentives NEVER changes behavior

    Now, there are a lot of fallacies in play here, not the least of which is that budgeted income will always meet planned figures forever -- a conclusion made while operating in a vacuum devoid of external circumstances, perverted incentives or the foibles of the public.


    Even Viacom has begun to see how far from true the "Consumer Habits will never change" mantra is...
    http://recode.net/2015/04/06/viacom-says-the-internet-made-its-reruns-less-valuable/

    That is why these "projections" will fall short and the "fix" will be to block even more sites and to outlaw VPNs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 7 Apr 2015 @ 9:36am

    “ISPs are intermediaries and we do what we do best when we act a little bit like utilities: We provide access to the Internet. We should not be put in a position of picking and choosing what people have access to,”

    Spoken like someone that must actually have competition to deal with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 7 Apr 2015 @ 10:05am

    On the plus side, this censorship list will be selected by people that only have the financial bottom line in mind.

    Of course that is "initially selected". I'm sure every agency will soon want in on the action.

    Remember kids, gambling is bad. Unless it's government-sponsored gambling. Then it's "for the children".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 10:06am

    Should a government body attempt to block websites

    But think of the children!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2015 @ 1:28pm

    "Legalised" monopoly

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    spodula, 8 Apr 2015 @ 2:08am

    Why not?

    The americans did something similar to protect Las Vegas and got away with it, even ignoring WTO rulings.

    Why cant Quebec do it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 8 Apr 2015 @ 4:55pm

    Canadian ISP middle management: "Apparently, we're to block illegal gambling websites throughout Quebec, I guess online gambling must be illegal there, so shut 'em all down.
    Canadian ISP employee: "All of them?"
    Canadian ISP middle management: "Yes, all of them."
    (A few hours later)Canadian ISP employee: "Betway - blocked. 888 Poker - blocked. Spin Palace - blocked. And Loto Québec - blocked. There, finally finished."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Vladilyich, 27 Apr 2015 @ 5:55am

    Canadian Lottery Competition

    I read recently where the OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming) is doing the same thing and backing Quebec in their legislation. Unlike the U.S. Canada allows online gambling...as long as it is controlled by the Province or Federal Government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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