Quebec’s online gambling revenue soared over the first half of its current fiscal year as the Canadian province’s land-based options went dark due to COVID-19.
Last Friday, the Loto-Quebec provincial gambling monopoly released an update on its financial performance over the first half of its current fiscal year. As of September 30, revenue totaled C$687.4m (US$518.6m), less than half the C$1.4b earned in H1 2019-20, while net income tumbled by three-quarters to C$181.2m.
As with most of the world, Quebec’s retail gambling operations went into an extended deep-freeze this spring as the pandemic took hold. The net effect on H1 2020-21 was across the board declines in all gambling verticals that required customers to be physically present.
Lottery revenue was down by more than one-quarter to C$335.2m, while land-based casino operations fell nearly 65% to C$179.9m and video lottery terminal operations in the province’s bars and bingo halls slid 62.6% to C$174m.
Revenue from the Espace-jeux online gambling site totaled C$166.5m, a dramatic rise from the C$66.1m the site reported in H1 2019-20. In fact, Espace-jeux nearly topped that total on its online lottery sales alone (C$60.85m) – thanks in part to new instant-win online products – while online casino revenue more than doubled to C$105.6m.
Espace-Jeux generated revenue of only C$136m in the fiscal year ending March 31, suggesting the only thing the underperforming site needed to realize its true potential was the elimination of most alternatives.
Loto-Quebec president Lynne Rotier noted that the online surge led the monopoly to buttress its responsible gambling messaging efforts via Espace-jeux. One of these campaigns pushed the concept of setting time and spending limits, while another, more cynical campaign urged Quebecers to gamble patriotically during the pandemic (i.e., with Espace-jeux and not internationally licensed alternatives).
Rotier said the monopoly was keeping a sharp eye on all its operations in order to prioritize “again and again, the health and well-being of our employees and our customers.” Quebec was forced to close many of its retail operations for a second time last month as the province’s infection rate continues to lead the country.
ONTARIO URGED TO MAKE GOOD ON ONLINE LIBERALIZATION PLEDGE
Across the border in Ontario, the provincial government is set to release its fiscal 2021 budget this Thursday (5) and private online gambling operators hope to see news that the province will honor its pledge to open the market to online competition.
In April 2019, the provincial Tory government announced plans to “establish a competitive market for online legal gambling that will reflect consumer choice.” At present, Ontario gamblers’ sole locally approved online option is the Ontario Lottery & Gaming (OLG) Corp’s PlayOLG.ca site, which continues to underperform its rivals in British Columbia and Quebec.
Premier Doug Ford’s government has been mum on those online plans ever since but Monday saw Bloomberg quote finance department spokesman Scott Blodgett saying the government would “work to develop a new model for online legal gambling.” Blodgett was mum on the timing, saying only that this work would happen “over the coming months.”
OLG can hardly afford extra competition right now, as its land-based operations have faced similar challenges as those in Quebec. In May, OLG got a half-billion dollar cash infusion from the province to ensure it could keep the lights on until something resembling normalcy returned.
OLG’s financial report for the 2019-20 fiscal year is now at least one month overdue but the company has undergone some senior management shuffling during the pandemic. Last month, OLG announced the appointment of former financial services exec A. Duncan Hannaway as its new president and CEO, effective October 26.
BC BETTORS LOVE PRESIDENTS MORE THAN PIGSKINS
Finally, the country’s most popular locally licensed online gambling site – the British Columbia Lottery Corp’s PlayNow.com – reported Monday that it has taken around 12,000 bets totaling C$3m on the current US election, significantly higher than the 7,200 bets placed on the 2016 poll.
Of these 2020 wagers, around 3k bets worth C$1.4m are backing incumbent Donald Trump’s ability to hold on to his job for another four years. Challenger Joe Biden has attracted nearly 1,500 bets worth C$622k, although Biden’s odds are far narrower than Drumf’s.
The 2016 election surpassed that year’s Super Bowl in terms of bettor interest and the 2020 campaign has become PlayNow’s single-most popular betting event ever. PlayNow led the charge among Canada’s provincial monopolies by permitting election betting in 2014 and Loto-Quebec was quick to follow BC’s lead.