Recognition plea of First Nation online gambling in Canada

"Turning away from the issue and remaining silent will continue to, and ultimately, undermine First Nation communities,” says Canadian legal expert.

Writing in a professional article for a US gaming law journal, a Canadian lawyer has submitted the case for First Nation online gambling to be acknowledged and formally legalised by federal and provincial Canadian governments.

Montreal-based legal expert Morden Lazarus claims that for more than a decade, Quebec and Ottawa have “…denigrated online gambling operations in Kahnawake, with some elected officials stating outright that the business, which provides servers for myriad online casinos and sports books overseas, is illegal.”

However, he points out, the only concrete government action has been to ignore Mohawk Internet Technologies (MIT) as it grew into a global hub, and Canada should now provide a legal framework for aboriginal online gambling in Canada.

"Turning away from the issue and remaining silent will continue to, and ultimately, undermine First Nation communities, their economic ambitions, political autonomy, health and prosperity," Lazarus argues in his professional article for the Gaming Law Review and Economics.

"The federal government owes a duty to negotiate in good faith,” Lazarus, who represents MIT clients and has represented Kahnawake interests in the past, told the Montreal Gazette this week.

The newspaper notes that the Mohawks of Kahnawake maintain they do not require government approval for their gambling operations, based on sovereignty treaties and a right traced back to games of chance developed before Europeans occupied North America.

But they have sought a pact with governments.

Two years ago, the Montreal Gazette reported that the Parti Québécois government considered a draft deal as MIT was launched in 1999. Kahnawake offered the federal and provincial governments a stake in MIT, former Kahnawake Grand Chief Joe Norton disclosed at an industry conference.

The newspaper points out that the fresh public push for negotiations comes as MIT and its regulatory body, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, seek to be included on Britain's "white list" of online regulators and casinos, allowing MIT clients to advertise online brands in Britain.

The British minister in charge of the white list made inquiries about MIT to Ottawa, which passed the request to Quebec, citing jurisdictional issues, Lazarus told the newspaper.

The Kahnawake Mohawks have not seen Quebec's response to the inquiry, but it was either negative or unfavourable, he claims, because the white listing was denied. This has had a negative impact on business.

The Gazette also notes that earlier this year, Quebec gave its blessing to online gambling, authorising Loto-Québec to join with sister lottery corporations B.C. Lottery Corp. and Atlantic Lottery Corp., to offer online poker and sports betting (see previous InfoPowa reports).

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