Just weeks before the expiration of Madawaska Maliseet First Nation’s tax agreement with New Brunswick, the tribe scored an important win in court. Just recently, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal ruled that the province is required to pay to the band government 95% of the proceeds from video gambling machines at Grey Rock Casino, which is located on the reserve.
Previously, the New Brunswick Lotteries and Gaming Corporation claimed that it had no legal obligation to share revenue from the casino’s video gambling machines with the tribe. It argued that it was essentially a policy decision, involving various social and economic factors that could be made at its discretion. However, the province’s top court did not agree.
Court Says Otherwise
In a recent ruling written from January 12, 2023, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal states that the Crown corporation does not have the residual discretion it claims and the tribe should be paid its share of the new profit from the casino. The ruling was written by Justice Raymond French and signed by two other justices, Ernest Drapeau and Charles LeBlond.
Justice French notes that the commission was not able to identify the social and economic factors would include if it were a discretionary decision. Also, the commission argued that the terms video gaming devices do not apply to machines owned by the casino, and instead only to ones owned by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation at the property. However, Mr. French did not agree with the claim.
The ruling is in compliance with a Court of King’s Bench decision from last year, which stated that the tribe met all the requirements to be included in the revenue-sharing provisions. said Nick Kennedy, a lawyer for the band, commented that courts at both levels accepted that the province is required to share its gaming profits from Grey Rock Casino with the First Nation.
According to the court ruling, Madawaska’s 95% portion of profits from video lottery terminals was approximately CA$1.8 million in 2015. But after the casino launched last year on the reserve, the gaming corporation reduced what it was paying. The volume decreased to less than CA$10,000 in 2018 after the ALC took out its last machines.
Ontario also Taken to Court
Madawaska is not the only First Nation in Canada to get into legal conflict with a provincial gaming regulator. In Ontario, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke has taken the provincial government to court, after the local government made changes to the iGaming sector without consulting the Nation. The tribe filed a notice of application in the Ontario Superior Court.
In addition to that, the Scugog Island First Nation is also unhappy with the Ontario government over a potential breach of contract. The tribe claimed that the provincial government has failed to consult the tribe, regarding the launch of the Pickering Casino Resort, which violates an agreement for a limited number of gaming amenities in the region of Durham, Ontario.
Source: Poitras, Jacques “Madawaska First Nation scores another revenue-sharing win in court” CBC, January 16, 2023