Saskatchewan online casino referred to RCMP; NHL to hip-check sports bet bill


saskatchewan-northern-bear-casino-rcmpWhile politicians in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan may have decided there wasn’t “a compelling business case” for launching an online gambling site, a criminal case may yet result from Tuesday’s launch of an online casino by the province’s White Bear First Nation. Don Morgan, a spokesman for provincial Justice Minister Gord Wyant, says the GEOBet-powered has been referred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Morgan told the Star Phoenix that provincial Justice officials were examining the site’s operations “with as much speed as they can” because it was “problematic for the government to see an operation that’s not operated” under the province’s framework.

White Bear CEO Bernie Shepherd described his intent in launching the site as “ensuring that when we do end up in court, what we’re doing basically is occupying the field.” Shepherd claims to have written his own tribal iGaming act, which he says is necessary “to make sure we have good governance … It’s important for the courts to see.” Shepherd also recalled year-old comments by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall that “sovereignty rests with First Nations,” a belief with which Shepherd is in 100% agreement. “They can’t say ‘Yes, we have rights,’ and with the other hand, try and crush us. We have rights and we’re going to exercise those rights.”

The National Hockey League is sending two reps to Thursday’s meeting of the Canadian senate’s standing committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to express their opposition to the proposed C-290 single-game sports betting legislation. In addition to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, senior counsel Jessica Berman will also testify as to the 1,000 years of darkness that will descend upon the hockey world if Canadian punters are allowed to wager with their provincial lottery corporations in addition to the thousands of international online sportsbooks with which they currently wager. The committee’s website says other witnesses may also appear. For what it’s worth, the Northern Bear site is already offering single-game sports bets, a fact that may come up at the committee meeting.

NHL goalie Roberto Luongo may not be cashing any game checks due to the NHL’s ongoing labor strife, but the deal Luongo signed last year with the British Columbia Lottery Corporation earned him $160k in cash and entry fees to poker tournaments at which he promoted BCLC’s online gambling site, Luongo’s payday was revealed via documents detailing BCLC’s $31.5m marketing budget for the fiscal year ending March 2012. Provincial opposition gaming critic Spencer Chandra Herbert questioned both the size of the marketing spend and Luongo’s walking around money, asking CTV News: “[Luongo] is a poker player anyway… Would there have been a way to get his support at a cheaper price?”

On Canada’s other coast, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) has eliminated 16 positions in its sales and marketing department and has redeployed another 14 staffers so that ALC could, in the words of spokeswoman Lindsay Shannon, fulfill its “responsibility to taxpayers to be as efficient and as low cost as possible.” Hard questions are being asked about how much of the cost-cutting is the result of ALC’s controversial $8.7m investment in UK company Roboreus and its GeoSweep location-based lottery. GeoSweep was an unmitigated flop in the UK, earning just £100/day in total income, and while ALC has refused to divulge hard numbers about GeoSweep’s Maritime reception, there have been 152 draws since the game launched in June and no one has ever claimed the $250k jackpot. Mathematics would suggest that, on average, less than 1% of the 2.3m individual ‘squares’ up for sale are being purchased.