First Nations Chiefs Claim Right to Operate Online Casinos

Published Sunday, November 11, 2012 -

British Columbia Canada is turning out to be where the First Nations draw the line in the sand and make their own way in the gambling business, both online and off. The launch of a Tribal online casino in Saskatchewan, has given the other First Nation Tribes in Canada the courage to move forward with their plans for gambling venues with or without provincial government approvals. In B.C., Quebec, and soon Ontario the provincial governments are involved and hold strong positions in the gambling industry from which large revenues are gained.

First Nations chiefs in British Columbia have told the provincial government in no uncertain terms they will proceed with their own gambling offering without any government approvals. Grand Chief Joe Hall sent a formal announcement to the Premier of the province, Christy Clark indicating the Semiahmoo First Nation’s displeasure with the plan to build a casino in South Surrey by the British Columbian Lottery Corporation. The site for the casino is on disputed Semiahmoos aboriginal land. Chief Hall condemned the provincial attitude as the only provincial government to “categorically exclude First Nations” from entering into a revenue sharing deal on gaming operations; a policy the Chief calls, “not only immoral but illegal.”

The new proposed casino is a partnership between BCLC and Gateway Casinos and Entertainment. This deal is one of the “untenured direct award licenses” BCLC has authorized “on the doorstep of several First Nation reserves, all without consultation and without accommodation,” said Hall, adding that, BC’s First Nation chiefs, “will be pursuing all opportunities to access direct benefits from gaming.” Hall said First Nations members were “not asking your permission anymore” and were “prepared to defend our rights in the courts.” The issue could become a constitutional one going all the way to Canada’s Supreme Court for resolution. This could turn out to be a case of tribal sovereignty which in Canada has been a growing problem for a number of years.

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