Recently, Canada saw the submission of a gambling bill in the Senate to provide economic reconciliation with First Nations and respect gaming rights on their territories. However, the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawà:ke is alarmed that the new bill could negatively impact its decades-old online gambling industry. The bill is sponsored by Senator Scott Tannas.
If passed as law by the federal government, Bill S-268 would amend the Indian Act and Section 207 of the Criminal Code, allowing First Nations the exclusive authority to license, conduct and manage gaming activities on its territories. So far, the legislation has been supported by Alberta and Saskatchewan-based Indigenous leaders.
MCK is Not Fond of the Bill
Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke’s Chief Mike Delisle Jr. has freshly commented that the proposed tribal legislation falls far short of what MCK is looking for in terms of self-determination. He said the Nation will never sign on with the province being in control or to the Ontario model of running iGaming and explained the tribe wanted to have its territory recognized.
In the meantime, Mr. Tannas explained the bill will empower First Nations. He elaborated the legislation would put Indigenous communities’ gaming in the same position as the province, as opposed to being overseen by the province. The proposed law would also allow Indigenous governments to create a joint gaming commission if they are interested in such.
But some First Nations said they were alarmed the new law may impact their existing revenues, but the Senator dismissed such claims. He noted that it would be up to the indigenous communities to form actual revenue deals with the province and that every province operates differently. He claims the bill will put the negotiation power in the hands of the tribes.
But Chief Delisle does not agree. He argued MCK’s long-established sovereignty was one of the reasons to reject the bill in its current state. He said that the Nation is one of the stubborn ones and will not back down, while also informing that the tribe is working with people on the hill to discuss the bill with the senator and try to make it with a wide-eyed approach.
The tribe said the bill could harm the online gambling industry and believes Canada should unify gambling laws and include First Nations provisions. Meanwhile, Senator Tannas said he is open to improving the bill’s impact. Last but not least, Mr. Delisle urged Canada to back up words with action on First Nations’ gaming rights.
Taking on Ontario in Court
It should be mentioned that MCK is truly one of the stubborn tribes, as last November the Nation took the Province of Ontario to court. The tribe filed a notice of application in the Ontario Superior Court, thus stating that the opening of the province’s iGaming sector to private operators by the provincial government is illegal and unconstitutional.
Source: McNeil, Robyn “Kahnawà:ke’s Historic Gaming Industry Threatened by Proposed Canadian Gambling Bill, S-268” Bonus.com, July 6, 2023