PlayAlberta.ca is an online gambling platform that offers numerous gaming services to Albertans. The platform was launched in the fall of last year and it provides entertainment for many gambling fans in the province. However, two First Nations are taking the provincial government and the gaming commission to court by claiming that website is unregulated and unauthorized.
The province’s legislature has decided to launch such a platform for Alberta with the help of the Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission which is in charge of the local gambling regulations. The mobile entry was launched as a means to provide more revenue for the province during the financial troubles caused by the unprecedented situation and the closure of land-based casino properties.
Southern Albertans First Nations of Tsuut’ina and Stoney Nakoda have officially taken legal action against the gaming corporation and the provincial government. Chief of Tsuut’ina Roy Whitney stated in a Wednesday meeting that because of the lockdown launch of the platform the state is collecting money that would otherwise be used for many community purposes such as health, education, and social programs.
According to Chief Clifford Poucette of Stoney Nakoda’s Wesley band, charities will not be able to receive their usual fund backing by the casino industry, and instead, the money will be channeled to the province’s government. He clarified that 77% of the company’s gaming revenue is used to support local businesses, infrastructure, education, and health.
The tribal corporations claim that the entry of the government as a casino regulator and offering gambling products is a direct conflict of interest. The spokesperson for the Crown agency stated that the commission is not aware of the nature of the submitted application and refused to comment further on the subject. However, Heather Holmen claimed that the Crown is mindful of the effects that the lockdown has caused on local businesses and communities.
Councillor and CEO of Tsuut’ina Brent Dodginghorse stated that there is a moratorium on licensing new casinos in the province of Alberta ever since 2008. He believes that the closing down of casinos for a lengthy period of time is imposed so Albertans will have only one option for wagering which is the online platform. Mr. Dodginghorse concluded by stating that this is bad faith for the province as the government should not regulate casinos.
This has not been the first time that the online expansion of the casino industry in Alberta has been criticized. Bonnie Lee, an Associate Professor in Addictions Counselling at the University of Lethbridge stated that the launch comes at an extremely inappropriate moment as more gamblers have much more spare time on their hands thus making them more vulnerable to gambling addictions.
The news of the gaming lawsuit against the government is coming not long after it was announced that the restart of the casino industry and other businesses will be delayed. The plan for Alberta was to reopen its casinos at the start of this month by entering Stage 3 of the government plan but that did not occur. Many locals have been worried that it is not the right time to reopen as was Glenn Weagle who urged the government to remain patient and hold on.
Source: Graveland, Bill “Alberta First Nations say provincially-regulated gambling website unauthorized” Global News, April 7, 2021