Saskatchewan leaves online gambling to the Bear

saskatchewan flagSaskatchewan’s government has decided against developing its own online gambling industry leaving the door open for the Northern Bear online casino to gain first mover advantage. CBC reports that Donna Harpauer, minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, shut down the online gaming idea after “mulling over” it for several years. She told The Canadian Press: “We did review it and there wasn’t a compelling business case to get involved and so we just didn’t.”

It comes as a former chief of the White Bear First Nation, Bernie Shepherd, prepares to open the Northern Bear online casino later today.

“Like any business, I’m doing it to make money. I hope we can be successful globally,” CEO of Northern Bear, Shepherd told the Leader Post. “I’m establishing our jurisdiction. We have inherent rights – treaty rights and constitutional rights. In our minds, this is legal.”

The site, which has been in the works for months, is run using GEOBet’s turnkey iGaming system and GEOBet will initially handle the site’s day-to-day operation. Regarding the legality of the site itself, Shepherd mentioned charges brought against him back in 1993 against gambling on reservations that were quashed and added: “Any time First Nations get into anything that generates revenue, governments try to say it’s illegal. We’re going to create revenue and jobs, and there are no taxpayer dollars required.”

Charges being brought against the new site are unlikely and if anyone tries to do so it’s likely to be met with opposition. Saskatchewan deciding that there isn’t a “compelling business case to get involved” is puzzling as the same province was worried two years ago about the money from gambling leaving the state. A partnership between the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority and the state was talked about but never ended up materalizing. It means Saskatchewan is left outside looking into a market that will be making the Northern Bear First Nation a helluva lot of money.