Loto-Quebec beats Harry Reid to the online poker punch

loto-quebec-canadian-poker-networkWhile Sen. Harry Reid appears to have failed in his attempt to get an online poker bill passed before the current lame duck session of Congress wraps up, those pesky neighbors north of the border have beaten him to the punch. The Canadian Poker Network, brought to life by Loto-Quebec and GTECH G2, has launched on the new Espacejeux.com provincial online gaming site, offering eight poker variants in both French and English.

GTECH G2’s deal with Loto-Quebec is for five years, with two two-year options on the back end. GTECH G2’s system will be housed in Montreal, while operations will be based in Moncton, New Brunswick. Currently only available to residents of the province that gave us this year’s World Series of Poker champ, Jonathan Duhamel, Loto Quebec already has plans to partner with British Columbia’s PlayNow.com, which launched/crashed/re-launched earlier this year. Ontario is scheduled to launch their own product in 2012, while other provinces, such as Saskatchewan, are also publicly musing about getting in on the action.

Personally, I like the idea of the provinces collaborating this way, as it will increase Canadians’ acceptability and trust in online gaming. However, once Canadians are comfortable with the notion of gambling over the internet, they will inevitably begin to shop around to see who’s really offering the best product and the best value. Once these customers explore their options, I fully expect many of them will choose to do their gambling with the big London-based operators, especially the market-leading private companies like PokerStars, Bet365 and Bodog. So here’s to Quebec and the other provinces for being so forward looking — even if it ends up benefitting their competition more than it does themselves.