Before the inception of a state-controlled video lottery network in 1994, existing legislation allowed for the operation of video poker-type amusement machines that primarily offered card, poker and blackjack games. These units did not, however, provide the possibility of making monetary gains. Nevertheless, several operators did draw substantial illegal revenues by converting free games into cash.
In 1993, the Sûreté du Québec estimated the number of illegally operated machines as being in the order of 25,000 to 45,000, which represented annual sales of approximately $780 million*. In today’s dollars, this would equal over $1 billion. This illegal activity was taking place not only in licensed establishments, but also at locations accessible to minors, such as convenience stores and arcades.
In June 1993, the Québec Government entrusted Loto-Québec with a mandate to establish, market and operate a network of video lottery terminals, which gave rise to the creation of the Société des loteries vidéo du Québec (SLVQ) on June 27, 1993 in order to assume these new responsibilities. On June 28, 1994, the Société went ahead with the installation of the Québec network’s first terminals. This state control meant the implementation of a legitimate network with a guaranteed payout rate within areas in licensed establishments reserved for individuals aged 18 and over. In fact, the SLVQ’s primary mission is to offer honest entertainment while promoting a responsible and rigorous management approach, thereby contributing to curbing the proliferation of illegal networks and terminals.
During the 1990s, the other Canadian provinces (with the exception of Ontario and British Columbia) also adopted this approach, and today, eight provinces operate networks under the control of a government authority.
*Source: Sûreté du Québec estimate during the Parliamentary Commission on proposed Bill 84, June 1993.