The government of Quebec has revealed that they will attempt to filter out illegal gambling websites in an effort to boost the traffic of its regulated betting site Espacejeux.
The move would see the Canadian province's Internet Service Providers required to block the sites in order to comply with provincial law through a legislative amendment. The move was announced in the province's latest economic plan, to help bring a bit of balance to Quebec's budget.
The provincial government released a statement on the ISP blocking, noting: “In accordance with this measure, Internet service providers will not be allowed to provide access to an online gaming and gambling website whose name is on a list of websites that are to be blocked, drawn up by Loto-Québec [operator of the government's online gambling venture]."
The proposal has drawn immediate backlash from politicians and academics alike, with University of Ottawa Law Professor Michael Geist saying, “This is a remarkable and possibly illegal plan as the government seeks to censor the Internet for its own commercial gain."
“The plan would likely face a legal challenge, both on free speech and jurisdictional grounds, since the telecommunications regulations fall within federal jurisdiction."
A Quebec ISP concurred with the criticism, with ISP TekSavvy Solutions' Legal Analyst Bram Ambramson saying, “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. We would want the government to think very very carefully before taking this unprecedented move, which I have no doubt would be treated with great trepidation by consumers and by everyone who’s interested in the free flow of information.”
Casino Listings will update this story as more developments arise.