Loto-Quebec has received cabinet approval to get into the online gambling business.

The provincial gambling monopoly, in conjunction the BC and Atlantic Lottery Corporations, will set up a site this fall aimed at stemming the lucrative yet unregulated internet gambling market.

Online gambling brings in more than $600 million across Canada every year, and the government says much of that money goes right into the black market.

"Our citizens are not protected and the money goes to illegal channels," said Finance minister Raymond Bachand.

It's estimated that Quebecers have access to more than 2,000 unregulated online gaming sites, including some that are hosted at the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve.

Loto-Quebec says its sites will offer measures to weed out problem gamblers, including age verification, options for self-exclusion and deposit limits.


Loto-Quebec president and CEO Alain Cousineau says his agency has been trying to fight online gambling sites without success.

Instead the agency's gambling site will offer a safer alternative, with methods of discouraging problem gamblers.

"Online gambling sites obviously do not offer an assistance program for vulnerable players," he said.

"(This) leaves the state to pick up the costs of problem online gambling without reaping any benefits."

The Loto-Quebec site will be based on the Swedish national lottery model.

"In the first four hours when the Swedish poker got online, they got 20 per cent of the market," said Cousineau.


Anti-gambling advocate Sol Boxenbaum told CTV's Paul Karwatsky that Loto-Quebec's online sites will attract new gamblers -- and new problems.

"Any new type of gambling always attracts new people, especially now when it's a hidden one that you can do in the den in your pajamas while your spouse is fast asleep," said Boxenbaum.

He said Quebec is simply legitimizing an activity that would otherwise be illegal.

"All the firms that are operating right now are operating illegally and now the government is legitimizing it by saying 'well, we'll run one too.' "

Public Debate

Quebec Public Health is also against it saying there should have been a public debate.

Finance Minister Raymond Bachand announced Wednesday that a committee of experts will be set up to evaluate the impact of gambling websites in Quebec.

He said the committee will determine if any changes need to be made once the sites go online.