Jonathan Duhamel, the 2010 WSOP Main Event Champion, and Canada’s only, has signed a sponsorship deal with Société des casinos du Québec (SCQ), a subsidiary of Lotto-Quebec.
Duhamel, himself a Francophone native of Quebec, will commit to playing events in the province’s four casinos as part of the deal; and in particular the WSOP Circuit at Casino de Montréal, which returns Canada this year after a long hiatus. Duhamel will also be playing on the Quebec’s sole licensed online poker site Espacejeux.
The WSOP Circuit event runs April 20 to May 1, with two extra events online events at Espacejeux on May 7-8. All four Quebec casinos, as well as Espacejeux, are owned by the province-owned Lotto-Quebec Corporation.
A controversial bill is currently winging its way through the Quebec legislature that seeks to force internet service providers to block online gambling sites that are not operated or approved by the Lotto-Quebec Corporation. Should the bill pass, Lotto-Quebec would be charged with drawing a blacklist of sites that should be blocked.
The bill has invited criticism from lawyers, ISPs, and net neutrality advocates alike, who have variously denounced it as unconstitutional, technologically impractical and a violation of the freedom of expression.
Duhamel, of course is a PokerStars pro, while PokerStars parent, Amaya, is a Montreal-based company that provides services to Espacejeux. With Lotto-Quebec in charge of the blacklist in the event of the bill becoming law, it certainly makes sense that Amaya should wish to enforce its ties with the province in the hope that PokerStars swerves the list.
While not explicitly legal in Canada, the federal government does little to prevent its citizens from engaging with online poker’s offshore market, and PokerStars, primarily licensed in the Isle of Man, must is still be classified as “offshore,” despite the fact that its parent is homegrown.
There have been rumors that Amaya might receive preferential treatment should the site blocking scheme go ahead, although quite how that could square with fair commercial competition laws is anyone’s guess.
All this is speculation, of course, and Duhamel’s appointment in truth probably has very little to do with the politics of Quebec. He is, after all, undoubtedly the most successful post-poker boom WSOP main event winner, and arguably the most successful of all time.
Since winning $8.9 million at the WSOP Main Event six years ago he has gone on to double that tally in gross tournament yield in just six years, which places him tenth on the on poker’s all-time money list.
No one hit wonder, he shrugged off a deeply traumatic home invasion robbery in 2011, organized by a deranged ex-girlfriend, to become a mainstay on the high roller tournament circuit, and last year won the One Drop for just under $4 million.
Duhamel is the perfect poker ambassador for Quebec, but should that nasty little bill become law, he may well have to change his tune.