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First Nations Frustrated with Ontario’s iGaming Market

The Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation is aggravated with the Province of Ontario and its new open iGaming market for private operators. The Nation has also shared its plans to take the matter to court, as it claims that the province has failed to hold formal discussions with Indigenous governments about the possible impact of the said gaming regime.

Last week, iGaming Ontario, which is a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario made announced that the new open digital gaming market will be live starting from April 4, 2022. When the market goes live, private operators that have been approved by the regulator will be able to legally offer online wagering to local audiences.

Threat to First Nations

Shortly after the provincial announcement, the Scugog Island First Nation has also issued a statement in response. In which, the tribe condemned the Ford government for its plans to launch a “deeply flawed” iGaming regime. The First Nation is concerned that the new market will destroy the economy and set back decades of community development effort and is now looking to take legal action.

The First Nation further explains that the provincial government has failed to hold formal consultations with the Indigenous nation. This is a violation of its duty to discuss and accommodate impacted Indigenous groups. Chief of the First Nation, Kelly LaRocca, described the province’s decision as a slap in the face of the Nations and reduces their promises of reconciliation to a joke.

In addition to that, the Nation’s claim is that after citing research from gaming experts, the new market would strip millions of dollars from municipalities and First Nations across Ontario as well as the province’s own budget. The tribe also claims that the new regime would put more than 2,500 well-paying jobs at risk. It also said that the government did not inform how it will address the budget shortfall and casino layoffs.

Ms. LaRocca has also commented that the provincial administration has recklessly ignored the concern of the Indigenous government and failed to offer any solutions to address the impact of the flawed iGaming plan. In her words, the new market is a significant threat, and she says that if the Ford government does not budge, the Nation will have to make them accountable in the next elections.

Opponents of the Market

Last month, Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, which is a major casino operator in Canada, issued a report on the possible downsides of Ontario’s iGaming framework. The Ontario Gaming Market Assessment by HLT Advisory Inc., suggests that the existence of the new market would bring more than CA$2.8 billion in lost gaming revenue, as more players would turn to online wagering.

Previous Issues

This has not been the first time that Ontario has been taken to court over a dispute with a First Nation. Last year, Ontario’s Court of Appeal ruled that the OLG has violated the terms of the Crown’s revenue-sharing contract with 132 Ontario First Nations. The court ordered the government to pay 1.7% of non-gambling revenue to the Nations.

Source: Hall, Chris “iGaming plan ‘a slap in the face of First Nations’: MSIFN”, The Star, February 2, 2022