It's an event much anticipated since the Quebec provincial government gave its imprimatur earlier this year for Loto Quebec to develop an online gambling site; the launch of Espacejeux.com this week was supported with millions of dollars in promos and plenty of publicity in the Canadian media.
Based in a province already internationally known for its proximity to the First Nation online gambling hub of the Mohawks at Kahnawake, barely an hour's drive from Montreal, Quebec has become the second Canadian province to take the provincially regulated internet gambling route.
Earlier this year The British Columbia Lottery Corporation launched its PlayNow.com site, and the consensus is that the populous province of Ontario will soon follow. Meanwhile, moves are afoot in Saskatchewan by First Nation tribes to research online gambling possibilities, probably in partnership with the provincial government.
Not everyone was happy about the launch, with the Association québécoise des retraité des secteurs public et parapublic, which represents the interests of retired public and parapublic workers suggesting that all 55 years old and over Quebecers should boycott the site. The Association's president, Luc Vallerand said that recent studies suggest that seniors are at risk when it comes to Internet gambling.
"We think that Loto-Québec's offer of Internet gambling is going to give them a false sense of security," Vallerand told the Montreal Gazette. "Players will think that there is no danger or potential for problems on Loto-Québec's site. And they may not (easily) see what it is costing them because a credit card can be used," he said.
Jean-François Biron, a gambling researcher and member of the Montreal public health department's advisory committee agreed, claiming that in countries where Internet gambling has recently been sanctioned by the state, gambling participation rates - and problems - have grown.
He told the Gazette that in England, the participation rate for people age 55 to 64 was 2.7% in 2006, but jumped to eight percent in 2010, whilst in Sweden, the number of problem gamblers among women age 45 to 64 doubled after state-sanctioned Internet gambling was introduced.
Loto-Quebéc declined to say how many Quebecers signed up initially or how much was wagered online on the opening day. Online poker appeared to be popular, with over 800 players online by mid-morning, climbing to 1,600 early evening.
Espacejeux offers an extensive range of casino games, and there are plans for collaboration next month with the British Columbia internet gambling venture, enabling players from both provinces to compete against each other on a common network based in Montreal.
A Loto Quebec spokesman said that Espacejeux expects to attract between 10,000 and 20,000 Quebecers before Christmas, and generate around Cdn50 million in revenues through 2012.
Source: InfoPowa News