Quebec's gaming authority is branching out from traditional casinos and video lottery terminals into the lucrative world of online gambling.


Loto-Québec launched its online gambling site, Espacejeux, on Friday. (Loto-Québec)

Loto-Québec launched its new website, Espacejeux, on Friday.

Until Dec. 1, players can only register to become members of the site. After that, they will be able to play blackjack, poker, roulette and other online gambling games 24 hours a day.

Only Quebec adults are eligible to register and play on the site. People can wager using their credit cards, debit cards and online bill payment.

Eight kinds of poker games will be offered, in addition to table games such as baccarat, blackjack and roulette. Sports betting and bingo are expected to be added in the future.

Loto-Québec CEO Alain Cousineau said the site will be an alternative to the illegal, unregulated and questionable gambling sites that exist in cyberspace.

"It's a better model to offer a responsible alternative," he told reporters.

Process weeds out underage players

Critics have cautioned Quebec about getting into online gambling, saying it will only make it easier for young people and problem gamblers to lose money.

But Cousineau said the site includes rigorous controls to prevent underage players and problem gamblers from playing.

Cousineau was asked what would prevent a 15-year-old from stealing his father's credit card and signing up.

'The reason we are doing this is not because there is money there. It's because we have a responsibility to do this.' — Alain Cousineau, Loto-Québec CEO 

He said the registration and payment processes are designed to flag such situations.

People must provide confidential banking information, their address, their phone number, and it is all checked by an external company.

A letter is also sent to holder of the credit or debit card to alert them that they have been registered to use the site.

Loto-Québec also reserves the right to ask potential online gamblers to come into one of their offices to verify their identification.

Cousineau denied the government is getting into online gaming just to make money.

"The reason we are doing this is not because there is money there. It's because we have a responsibility to do this," he said.

"If that makes it so the state will recoup some of the money that is available out there, the more the merrier."

Earlier this year, the province created an advisory committee of independent experts to study the effects of online gambling.

The committee will monitor the new site and report back to the government within three years.