Response from Quebec Minister to Loto Quebec's critics

Finance minister points to European examples of regulated online gambling

The decision by the Quebec provincial government to support a Loto-Quebec move into the online gambling sector was in the headlines again this week as public health officials appealed for a one year moratorium on the decision and an investigation into possible detrimental effects.

Responding to critics, Finance Minister Raymond Bachand told the Montreal Gazette this week that the annual Cdn$1.4-billion dividend Loto-Québec pays the province from gambling income is a 'marginal' revenue source.

Bachand said Quebec is not alone in entering this new gambling niche.

'It's not for monetary reasons that Sweden and Great Britain and the northern European countries have gone into [Internet gambling],' he said. 'The role of the state is to channel gambling in a responsible manner.'

Public health authorities see online gambling as a new source of problem gambling.

'We respect their opinion,' the minister said. 'They are saying there is a risk there. Our role in government is to take into account all points of view.'

He recalled the same concerns were raised when Loto-Québec was founded in 1969, but said the Quebec government cannot ignore online gambling.

'The phenomenon of gambling is there,' he said. 'The Internet is there.'

Bachand compared online gambling with video poker machines in bars, which he said were controlled by organised crime before Loto-Québec became involved.

'[Loto-Quebec] displaced $600 million of organized-crime money,' he said.

'There are people who have pathological problems with gambling,' Bachand noted. 'It's less than one percent and we have to take care of these people.

'We are putting in money and we have to counsel them,' he said. 'But it's not by putting our head into the sand, allowing illegal sites to operate."

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