By Sharif Hassan
THE CANADIAN PRESS
An Indigenous council is taking the Ontario government to court over changes made to online gaming.
In a notice of application filed Monday against iGaming Ontario and the Attorney General of Ontario, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawa:ke alleges the changes are “illegal and unconstitutional” and leading to “significant” revenue loss to its community.
The Mohawks of Kahnawa:ke are part of the Mohawk Nation stretching through parts of Quebec, Ontario and the northeastern United States, and the council behind the legal action is the elected organization that provides governmental services to community.
Kahnawa:ke has been licensing online gaming for 25 years, and the council argues its subsidiary, Mohawk Online Limited, is now shut out of the Ontario gaming market because it has not submitted to the new provincial gaming framework.
The Ministry of the Attorney General said it was reviewing the notice of application. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
IGaming Ontario, the provincially regulated online gaming market, was launched in April, making Ontario the first jurisdiction in Canada to allow people to wager on casino games, sporting events and other gambling activities through online websites and smartphone apps from registered third-party operators.
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawa:ke argues iGaming Ontario cannot conduct or manage gaming that is taking place on private operators’ sites.
The council says the decision to take iGaming Ontario and the Attorney General of Ontario to court was a “last resort.”
“Ontario’s actions are causing a significant loss of important revenues for our community,” Ratsenhaienhs (elected council chief) Mike Delisle, Jr., wrote in a news release.
“Until these actions were taken, we were operating legally, safely and successfully across Canada. To be shut out of Ontario, by far the largest province in Canada, will have devastating effects on a source of income that has supplemented programs and services in our community for the last two decades.”
The MCK said it is concerned the province’s changes to online gaming “disregards the expertise and the rights of First Nations to operate and regulate safe and responsible gaming.”
“MCK has facilitated, conducted, and safely regulated gaming activities on behalf of the Mohawks of Kahnawake for decades,” it wrote. “This new regime ignores their expertise in the gaming sector, and will result in the loss of significant revenue to the community of Kahnawake.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2022.