Coalition Says Regulating Online Gambling Would Alleviate Québec’s Budget Woes

Written By Matthew Lomon on March 15, 2024
A house flying a Quebec flag is nearly underwater due to flooding. The Quebec government has an $11 billion budget deficit. The Quebec Online Gaming Coalition said regulating online gambling would help.

Québec released its 2024-25 budget earlier this week, and the results were historic. But not in a good way.

The sixth budget under finance minister Eric Girard projects an $11 billion deficit for the next fiscal year, which in real dollars, could be the highest in the province’s history.

One solution to help alleviate La Belle Province’s budget woes is to launch a regulated Québec online gambling market. That’s what the Quebec Online Gaming Coalition pitched in its response to Girard’s March 12 announcement.

“As the Minister of Finance tables a budget marked by a record $11 billion deficit, the Coalition québécoise du jeu en ligne deplores the fact that the Québec government has decided to deprive itself of substantial tax revenues by refusing to regulate the online gaming market on its territory,” said Nathalie Bergeron, spokesperson for the QOGC

“Since its launch, the Coalition has been offering a concrete solution to help the Québec government counter the effects of the budget deficit.”

Girard’s budget dropped almost exactly one month after his office publicly denounced the prospect of inviting private operators into Québec.

PlayCanada spoke to Bergeron immediately following those comments in February from the finance minister. It was at this time that she said the government’s opinion is “completely disconnected from the current reality.”

A missed opportunity to modernize the online gaming market, per QOGC

Throughout PlayCanada’s three separate conversations with Bergeron, the message was always crystal clear: Not only will a regulated market contribute much-needed tax dollars and enhance player safety, but it’s also the scientifically sound choice.

That said, the government has yet to agree. Perhaps the latest budget breakdown will serve as the coalition’s next in. After all, money talks.

“Regulating the market for private online gaming operators would enable the Québec government to obtain additional royalties estimated at a minimum of $230 million annually,” Bergeron said in a press release following the 2024-25 budget reveal. “This sum would be in addition to the revenues already provided by the Crown Corporation. These revenues could be reinvested in key sectors of the Québec economy, such as health and education, to the benefit of all Québecers.

“In addition to royalties, regulation would create many well-paid jobs here in Québec while generating significant public revenues, as is currently the case in Ontario.”

The Ontario argument is one the QOGC calls upon often, and for good reason. While the coalition has said that any potential iGaming framework doesn’t need to be a carbon copy of Ontario’s, the model is yielding positive results. Specifically, it contributed $523 million in revenues to provincial and municipal governments and nearly $1.6 billion to Ontario’s GDP during year one of operation.

Sticking with the status quo isn’t doing the government any favours, according to Bergeron and Co.

“At a time when the government is asking Crown Corporations, including Loto-Québec, to optimize and increase efficiency in order to find savings, Québec cannot afford to deprive itself of significant sources of new revenue,” Bergeron said.

QOGC: Not following Alberta a missed opportunity for Girard

Until last month, Québec appeared to have the inside track on becoming Canada’s next open online gambling jurisdiction. Since then, Alberta leapfrogged their neighbours to the east on the list of prospective iGaming regions. On Feb. 29, The Energy Province announced its 2024-25 budget, in which it’s allocating $1 million for a review of its current online gambling structure.

Despite the change in standing, Bergeron still views Alberta’s progress as a lesson for her government.

“The Minister missed an opportunity to send a clear signal in his budget, following Alberta’s example last week, to take action towards implementing regulations that would protect Québecers while boosting government revenues,” Bergeron said. “Instead of listening to the experts, who have been calling for regulation of the online gaming market for over 10 years, Québec prefers to protect Loto-Québec’s monopoly, to the detriment of public services and the Québec society that receives them.”

Whether the government will acquiesce under the pressure remains to be seen. Regardless, the QOGC has no plans of letting up.

Photo by PlayCanada
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Matthew Lomon

Matthew Lomon has been a contributor at Catena Media’s network of regional sites since July 2022. He first broke into covering the legal North American gambling industry with PlayCanada. Since then, Matthew's reporting has extended to PlayMichigan, PlayPennsylvania, and PlayIllinois. Based out of Toronto, Ontario, Matthew is an avid (bordering on fanatic) sports fan.

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