Montreal public health against plan for mini casino near Bell Centre

In what is seen as a setback for gambling businesses in Quebec, a previously planned development of a mini-casino with approximately 350 slots has been rowed back by Montreal Public Health, with its director, Dr. Mylène Drouin, hypothesising that the "risk for initiation to gaming is increased with this project" in a 42-page report.

The currently-closed 1909 Taverne Moderne, a three-storey building on des Canadiens-de-Montréal Avenue, had been earmarked as a mini gambling hub and was to be led by Loto-Québec, the lotto regulatory authority in the region established since 1969. Had it gone ahead, it would have joined other popular land-based casino hubs in Montreal, alongside Casino de Montreal, Magic Palace, and others.

The report also called the normalising of gambling a potential public health hazard - the earmarked location is just around the corner from the Centre Bell stadium, where the Montreal Canadiens play.

Industry bosses are shocked by the decision - Loto-Quebec and Groupe CH, the entity that owns the Montreal Canadiens, had partnered up for the project, which is now on the back burner.

One of the main points of contention from Loto-Québec was the lack of communication from officials. In a statement, they said:

We are stunned that Montreal Public Health would decide to send its report — and grant interviews — to journalists, instead of the main party concerned, Loto-Québec.
We're especially surprised given that we've been working with Montreal Public Health on this matter for two years.

Had the project gone ahead, it would have reduced the number of slot machines in Quebec by 600 as part of the original agreement.

Key Takeaways from Report

Despite overseeing a maturing gambling market in the province, Loto-Québec faces some political pressure to respond to the report, which made some other wide-reaching recommendations.

Other points of order from the report include:

  1. [Public health] recommends reducing the number of Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) sites in Montreal.
  2. A centralised gaming hall in an area with heavy foot traffic would "allow larger sums to be wagered more quickly than the VLTs that will be removed from bars and brasseries".
  3. A new gaming hall would "result in a substantial change in the supply" of gaming machines.

What is the Gambling Landscape in Montreal?

Gambling Landscape in Montreal

In Montreal, the gambling landscape is regulated by both provincial and federal laws. As of 2023, the primary governing body is the Quebec Alcohol, Racing and Gaming Commission (Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux).

The Commission regulates activities such as casinos, video lottery systems, and public games of chance. Casino operations are legal in Montreal, with the primary venue being Casino de Montreal, one of the largest casinos in the world.

Online gambling has been legal in Quebec since 2010, operated by Loto-Quebec through their online platform, Espacejeux. The Interactive Gambling Act, however, prohibits any unlicensed international operators from advertising their services to Canadian residents, but residents are not barred from accessing or using these services.

Sports betting is legal in Montreal, but only in parlay bets through the provincial lottery corporation, Loto-Quebec. Single-game sports betting, however, is not allowed.

The legal gambling age is 18 in Montreal, which is lower than some other provinces in Canada. The Quebec government also imposes strict regulations encouraging responsible play and takes measures to prevent underage gambling and gambling addiction.

In the 2021-22 fiscal year, Loto Quebec's total revenues reached $2.217 billion. President and Chief Executive Officer Jean-François Bergeron was keen to press on the organisation's more comprehensive benefits to the province.

At the time of the results, he said:

We made $356 million in purchases from local businesses and paid $268 million in commissions to our Québec business partners. In addition, we contributed more than $10 million to various non-profit organisations, and our sponsorship program helped to support some 50 events across Québec.
Dmitry Rogalchuk
With over 5 years of experience in iGaming, Dmitry Rogalchuk leads a content team at CasinoCanada, ensuring that every article on the CasinoCanada website is informative and engaging for our readers.
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The University of British Columbia
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Last updated on: 19.03.2024

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