Loto-Québec looks to place video gambling machines in Bell Centre

February 25, 2023 10:40 AM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports
February 25, 2023 10:40 AM

According to a Statistic Canada study from last year, Quebecers love to gamble, so this week’s news that Loto-Québec is looking to install video gambling machines in the Bell Centre, where the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens play, should come as no surprise.

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The news, first reported by CTV, suggests that hundreds of machines will be placed in the arena.

“As our president Jean-François Bergeron mentioned yesterday, we are currently in discussions regarding the opening of a gaming location at the Bell Centre,” said Renaud Dugas, a spokesperson for Loto Québec. “The project is in its early stages.”

More specifically, there would be gaming machines, poker tables, and sports-betting terminals. Those heading to a Habs game could make a quick bet on the contest. The machines would be housed inside the 1909 Taverne Moderne, which adjoins the Bell Centre, closed since the beginning of the pandemic. What a boost to their business if this happens.

Dugas said they’re not ready to make a formal announcement yet.

Still, it makes you wonder about the situation in Ontario’s market, with more than 40 private companies currently regulated and operating igaming sites, along with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s Proline+ digital property, plus the fact OLG oversees casinos in the province. Loto-Québec, like in the other provinces and territories in Canada, is the only platform you can go to in Quebec to bet legally.

Setting up mini-casinos in rinks like the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto isn’t as easy as it sounds.

CDC Gaming Reports went to both the OLG and Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the government body that sets the regulatory framework for regulated gaming market in the province. When asked about the boundaries in setting up sports-betting and igaming experiences, with terminals in physical locations like sports bars and sporting arenas, a spokesperson said, “The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is the regulator of internet gaming (igaming) in Ontario and holds all registered igaming operators to high standards of responsible gambling, player protection, and game integrity.”

Under Ontario’s regulatory framework, registered igaming operators are permitted to operate gaming sites only through an electronic channel. And only the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) may establish and offer physical gaming sites.

Operators of igaming sites, therefore, aren’t permitted to provide equipment or devices, such as tablets or kiosks, that enable gaming in a physical space, since it will give rise to a physical gaming site of one form or another.

The AGCO regulates and oversees casino locations. The OLG conducts and manages casinos in the province. So they’d be the ones to set up a physical gambling site like the one proposed for the Bell Centre. However Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns and operates the Scotiabank Arena, has separate sponsorship deals with private operators like FanDuel and PointsBet Canada. Same with the Rogers Centre, owned by Rogers, home of the Blue Jays, which has a sponsorship deal with theScore Bet.

An OLG spokesperson told CDC Gaming Reports in January that their focus now is on their “lines of business and service providers,” which includes allowing brick-and-mortar casino service providers to offer sports betting at Ontario casinos.

So we’ll have to wait and see. As for that earlier point about Quebecers and gambling, according to StatsCan, 69.1 percent of Quebecers 15 and older surveyed indulge in gambling activities at least once per year.