[toc]Esports enthusiasts in Québec, Canada now have the opportunity to lay bets on their favorite esports after the state-regulated online gambling provider Loto-Québec launched a new service last week.
The first event where esports betting was offered was the Dreamhack Montreál, which took place over the weekend, August 11 to August 14. Loto-Québec promises that betting will be available for other “international caliber” competitions such as The International.
The service is provided via a new tab on the Mise‑o‑jeu sports betting site.
Louis Beaudet, director of sports and entertainment betting, commented:
“With the increasing popularity of e‑sports, there is more and more demand for opportunities to bet on this type of competition. With Mise‑o‑jeu, Loto‑Québec is filling the gap by offering a secure and honest environment for placing bets. A new E‑Sports category has now been activated on our platforms. We will continue to track interest in this type of betting over the coming months.”
Esports betting in the security of a regulated environment
Loto-Québec states that the Mise‑o‑jeu offering is the “first legal, honest and secure gaming environment for placing bets on electronic sports in Québec. Many video gaming fans are already interested in this type of bet, but offerings on the international scene are often via illegal or poorly‑regulated channels.”
In Canada, the federal law is ambiguous with regard to the legality of online gambling provided by offshore operators. Canadian provinces have the right to regulate their own online gambling, and Loto-Québec is the monopoly licensed provider authorized by the government.
Loto‑Québec wants to support local esports and video game developers
Québec has a major interest in online gaming. Amaya, the owner of PokerStars, is based in Montreal, as is Caesars Interactive Entertainment (CIE), which was just sold to a Chinese group for $4.4 billion.
Montreal has an efficient internet and business support infrastructure for the internet gaming industry which has proved attractive to international companies.
In support of the industry, Loto-Québec offered a dozen independent local gaming studios the opportunity to showcase their work by giving them free space at their Indie Zone exhibition.
The press statement explained that:
“Loto‑Québec is committed to helping up‑and‑coming video game creators cultivate their talent for a Québec speciality that deserves to be more widely known. Loto‑Québec’s Indie Zone is meeting that objective at Dreamhack Montréal.”
Loto‑Québec wants to innovate but as yet doesn’t offer DFS
For a state monopoly operator to adopt esports betting at this stage in the industry’s development is unusual and impressive.
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Corporate Director, Strategy, Innovation and Branding Nathalie Rajotte said:
“At Loto‑Québec, we are passionate about gaming in all its forms. There’s a natural link between our teams and local creators, communities, studios and talented developers. Video gaming is a major source of innovation and pushes the limits of creativity in a whole range of sectors, including ours.”
All of which looks to be true, but it is surprising that Loto‑Québec has adopted exports betting while it still offers no daily fantasy sports (DFS) option.
ISP blocking for offshore operators
In a controversial move earlier this year, the Québec government passed new legislation requiring internet service providers (ISP) to block access to unlicensed offshore gambling providers.
The decision was taken as part of the budget process, and was designed to consolidate Loto-Québec’s monopoly position and prevent the loss of tax income from players using offshore sites.
Whether the legislation will survive legal challenge is a moot point.
The ISPs complain that it is technically difficult to enforce restrictions that only apply to residents in Québec; the civil rights lobbyists complain that banning access to the internet is an abuse of free speech, and there is a good case that the law exceeds Québec’s powers since the federal government is responsible for regulating the internet.
Nonetheless, the Québec government’s intent is clear. It wants to ensure a safe and well-regulated online gambling environment, and that now includes esports betting.