BUSINESS

Loto-Quebec’s online gambling gains, French chef pains

TAGs: Canada, Espacejeux.com, Loto Quebec, quebec

loto-quebec-espacejeux-french-chefLoto-Quebec’s online gambling revenue jumped more than one-quarter in the first nine months of its fiscal year.

Quebec’s provincial gambling monopoly released its fiscal Q3 results on Friday, showing overall revenue falling 1.5% to C$2.61b (US $1.62b) in the nine months ending December 31, 2016. Profits were also down, falling 1.3% to C$933m, which Loto-Quebec blamed on two fewer days during the period and a paucity of big lottery jackpots.

The Espacejeux.com online gambling operation reported revenue of C$58.3m, a 26.4% rise over the previous corresponding period. Online lottery sales improved nearly 30% to C$26.8m while other online gambling products rose 23.5% to C$31.5m.

The results put Espacejeux well on pace to break its previous 12-month revenue total of C$66.2m. Regardless, Quebec insists it’s proceeding with its plans to compel internet service providers to block the domains of Espacejeux’s international competitors, even if telecom industry groups and Canada’s national telecom regulator say the plan is illegal.

Espacejeux unexpectedly went dark Wednesday night, apparently due to server issues. Loto-Quebec says it temporarily disabled 700 customer accounts for “safety reasons” but the site has since been restored.

Lottery revenue was down 4.6%, but still provided the bulk of Loto-Quebec’s revenue at C$1.27b. Electronic gaming operations outside casinos nudged up 0.7% to C$739m while the province’s four brick-and-mortar casinos gained 2.8% to C$619m due to increased table game play.

J’ACCUSE!
One Quebec casino is coming under fire over its decision to hire a renowned French chef. Casino de Montréal recently hired Joël Robuchon (pictured) to prepare swanky fare for casino guests but some members of Quebec’s parliament believe the job should have gone to a local chef.

Objections have also been raised over the casino’s unwillingness to disclose how much it’s paying Robuchon, with some media outlets reporting Loto-Quebec spent $11m to build a new 56-seat restaurant under Robuchon’s control. Rival restaurateurs are also up in arms, given that Loto-Quebec is a Crown corporation and shouldn’t be throwing taxpayer money at a foreigner whose work will undermine taxpaying Quebec restaurants.

Finance Minister Carlos Leitao, whose office claimed the online gambling IP-blocking plan was a necessary “health” issue, was similarly unrepentant regarding the chef controversy. Leitao said he was “delighted with this contract” and insisted that Loto-Quebec has “all the administrative latitude it needs to sign such agreements.” It wasn’t quite ‘let them eat poutine,’ but it’s close.

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