Skip to main content

Loto-Quebec in talks to install video gaming machines at Bell Centre

Loto-Quebec and the Montreal Canadiens are in talks to install hundreds of video gambling machines at the Bell Centre, according to a radio interview.

The gaming machines, sport betting terminals and poker tables would be housed inside the restaurant 1909 Taverne Moderne. The large three-storey building adjoins the Bell Centre in downtown Montreal and has been closed since the beginning of the pandemic.

Loto-Quebec CEO Jean-Francois Bergeron spoke about the plan Wednesday morning in a radio interview with Paul Arcand on 98.5 FM.

"We're not quite ready [to make an announcement], but yes, we're in discussions," Bergeron said, adding that as far as timeline, "ideally, it would be done by now."

Bergeron said Loto-Quebec and the Canadiens had been in talks for several months, and one of the discussion points is opening hours: whether it will be open seven days a week from noon to 3 a.m.

Bergeron said the target clientele would be Bell Centre attendees but added that they would not refuse access to others who want to go in through its separate street entrance.

Loto-Quebec is simply trying to bring the casino into downtown Montreal, said psychologist and gambling expert Jeffrey Derevensky.

"This will be a mini-casino with reportedly hundreds of slot machines and also sports gambling terminals. What they are trying to do is capitalized on a market – increase their market share and market penetration by moving the slot machines out of the casino and into a new facility," he said.

One of the stated goals is to reduce illegal online gambling. Derevensky, though, doesn't believe that argument, saying it will instead enable people headed to a Canadiens game to make a quick bet on the outcome.

Slot machines, the psychologist said, are a continuous form of gambling and are more problematic than other forms of betting.

"I would venture to say it would be wise not to bring it into downtown Montreal where it's much more easily accessible and available. We know that accessibility and availability often lead to problem gambling," he said.

Finance Minister Eric Girard has said the Quebec government would want to impose two conditions on the project:

  • to have public health weigh in on it
  • try to ensure that if it goes forward, the project moves toward an overall reduction in video lottery terminals in the province.

Reacting at the Quebec legislature, the Parti Quebecois said it thought fewer games were better than more of them.

Quebec Solidaire said it would be anxious to hear from public health.

"There are vulnerable populations in this neighbourhood, and we need various strategies to make a decision," said QS leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois. "But I'll be honest with you, when you ask, 'Does downtown Montreal need thousands of video poker machines?' I think a lot of people, knowing that area, would tend to say the answer is no." Top Stories

India tells Canada to withdraw 41 diplomats, report says

India has told Canada that it must repatriate 41 diplomats by Oct. 10, the Financial Times reported. Ties between India and Canada have become strained over Canadian suspicion that Indian government agents had a role in the June murder in Canada of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Stay Connected