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Montreal Online Casinos

Montreal Online CasinosThe largest city in Quebec (and the second largest municipality and all of Canada), Montreal is home to more than 1.6 million people, with another two million living in the surrounding metropolitan area. That makes the city arguably the center for French-language culture in all of the Americas, as it is the second largest French-speaking metropolis in the world behind Paris. However, the area is more than welcoming to visitors from Canada and the United States: more than half the population is bilingual, speaking both French and English.

Montreal has also long been viewed as one of Canada’s gambling hubs. This is largely due to the Montreal Casino, located on Notre Dame Island. As the largest casino in the country, it attracts tourists from across the continent. And with the recent introduction of online gambling regulation in the province, this is one city where you’ll never be short of gaming options.

State-Run Monopoly Defines Gaming Industry

The story of gambling in Quebec largely begins in 1970, when the organization now known as Loto-Quebec held its very first drawing, a lottery known as Inter Loto. Lotteries had just become legal under Canadian law a few years earlier, and the provinces were eager to jump into the business in order to raise revenues for their respective governments. Within a few years, Loto-Quebec had begun offering million-dollar drawings, and today is now the largest single-province lottery corporation in Canada. Today, these lottery offerings have expanded to not only include dozens of local games, but also access into the biggest nationwide drawings including Lotto Max and Lotto 6/49.

But the corporation’s operations go far beyond lotteries. In fact, they are also the organization that is tasked with overseeing the four state-run casinos in the country, including the Casino de Montreal. This is done through a subsidiary known as the Societe des casinos du Quebec, which was formed in 1992 when the first two casinos (the other being the Casino de Charlevoix) were approved by the Quebec cabinet. Since then, two more casinos have been added to the province, including the Casino du Lac-Leamy and the Casino de Mont-Tremblant, which opened in 2009.

The Montreal Casino, however, is still the largest of the bunch, and is in fact the largest gambling resort in all of Canada. The facility includes two buildings that were already built (both of which had been used for Expo 67), as well as an annex that was built specifically for the casino. The entire complex features 115 table games, more than 3,200 slots, and many non-gaming amenities including restaurants, bars, and meeting rooms. While there have been attempts to move the casino, most notably in 2005, public opinion was strongly against such a decision, and Loto-Quebec has instead put more than $100 million into renovations for the existing location.

While there is still horse racing to be found, the most storied racing venue in Montreal has sadly closed its doors, seemingly for good. The Hippodrome de Montreal, also known as the Blue Bonnets Raceway, was first opened in 1872. Through the 1970s, it was one of the premier venues for harness racing in North America, but in its later years, the facility seemed outdated, and it finally closed in 2009. The future of the site is unclear, but it seems unlikely that racing will return anytime soon, and the buildings are now abandoned and in disrepair.

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Expansion to the Internet

In 2010, Loto-Quebec was granted the authority to provide regulated online gambling services throughout the province. This decision wasn’t without controversy, and the debate over the expansion fell largely on the same lines as it has in countless other jurisdictions: on the one hand, supporters argued that the site could bring in new revenue and provider a safer alternative to unregulated foreign sites, while critics feared that children and problem gamblers would gain easier access to games, all while optimistic revenue targets might never be reached.

But in November of that year, the site – Espacejeux – started to allow accounts to be made, and in December, the games went live. The site is still available to this day, offering a wide range of slots, table games, video poker, and other popular options provided by major developers like IGT and Microgaming. Not surprisingly, users can also purchase their lottery tickets through the side, and sports betting is also offered, with single game betting or parlays of up to eight games allowed.

Online poker is also available through the government portal, and players aren’t restricted to playing against others in the province. Starting in February 2011, the site linked with a poker room run by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation, allowing players to compete against a combined player pool across the two provinces, operating as the Canadian Poker Network.

Given that one of the government’s goals in launching their own online gambling operation was to give players an alternative to the overseas sites many players were previously using, it may not come as a shock that provincial authorities have attempted to prevent residents from accessing some of these unlicensed sites. That effort has been controversial (more on this in a bit), and while it may have put hurdles in the way of users accessing certain websites, it hasn’t stopped many operators from accepting real money players from here.

That means that gamblers have a couple different options if they want to play slots, blackjack, or other games over the Internet. Loto-Quebec’s site has the advantage of being local: it has oversight from the government of Quebec, which adds a layer of security and customer protection that is hard to match from a foreign operator. On the other hand, you may be able to find more enticing promotions and bonuses at foreign sites, as well as a more diverse selection of games – if you can continue to access those sites in the future.

Efforts to Protect Online Monopoly Cause Controversy

While Quebec isn’t going to be moving away from its current course of gaming expansion anytime soon, that doesn’t mean there aren’t controversies and debates still occurring in this sector. In particular, a recent bill that seeks to block access to many unlicensed gambling sites has proven extremely controversial, even among Quebecers who do not care much about placing bets over the web.

Known as Bill 74, the measure was introduced in order to help protect the sites run by Loto-Quebec from competition, with officials also saying it would help protect citizens in general from the predatory practices they said many unlicensed sites engaged in. But critics had several objections to this provision, mostly on the grounds that it ran contrary to the principles of freedom of expression, could violate current telecommunications law, and amounted to censorship of the Internet – something that could set a dangerous precedent in the province and across Canada.

But despite these protests, the bill was passed in May 2016, allowing the Ministry of Finance to order Internet Service Providers to block gambling sites other than those run by the state-owned monopoly. Once officials draw up a list of sites to be blocked, ISPs would have 30 days to comply or face heavy fines.

That assumes that the bill survives what seem like certain legal challenges. Along with those with civil liberties concerns, the residents of the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory near Montreal – who regulate about 90 gaming sites through the Kahnawake Gaming Commission – have expressed disappointment in the new law, saying it could trample on First Nation sovereignty.

Regardless of the future of the bill, it is likely that Quebecers will have plenty of ability to place bets online for the foreseeable future. Even if the IP block is enforced, it is all but certain that some sites will slip through the cracks, and there have been talks of even offering licenses to a handful of additional, well-regarded sites (perhaps including PokerStars or other brands operated by Amaya, a Canadian company). In any case, the question isn’t whether players here will continue to have some choices going forward, but rather what exactly those choices will be in the days to come.

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