On 18 May 2016, Bill 74 became law in Québec, allowing Loto-Québec, a government agency and the only operator authorised to provide online gambling services in the province, to create a blacklist of illegal gambling websites. All internet services providers (‘ISPs’) will be required to block access to the blacklisted websites within 30 days of publication of the list (the list is expected to be delivered in June) or face a fine for non-compliance, ranging from $2,000 to $100,000.
Michael D. Lipton, Partner at Dickinson Wright said, however, that “the legislation only imposes sanctions on ISPs. The legislation does not create an offence or impose sanctions on the operators of the gambling websites that are designated to be unauthorised by Loto-Québec.” Looking at the controversy surrounding Bill 74, Lipton expects telecommunications, governed by federal law, to be a contentious area and as such there is a strong likelihood that the legislation will be challenged on constitutional grounds by the ISPs that conduct business throughout Canada. Cory Levi, Associate Attorney at Lazarus Charbonneau, agrees that such challenges are likely to garner support from both ISPs and the public, including on the grounds of freedom of speech via the Telecommunications Act 1993, which “strictly provides that ISPs cannot interfere with what is available to Canadians online.” The legislation is “clearly a serious effort by the Québec government to protect its monopoly under the Federal Criminal Code to conduct and manage gambling operations,” said Lipton and that “time will tell” if the new legislation works well in practice.