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British Columbia First Nations online gaming could challenge BCLC monopoly

TAGs: BCLC, British Columbia Lottery Corporation, first nations

tribes-bclc-online-casinoCanada’s First Nations are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. In the same week that the White Bear First Nation told Saskatchewan’s government it didn’t need its permission to launch an online gaming site, British Columbia’s First Nations chiefs have informed the provincial government they intend to launch their own gambling businesses and they don’t intend to seek the government’s blessing. The in-your-face statement was delivered in a letter from Grand Chief Joe Hall to Premier Christy Clark on Friday, and follows the Semiahmoo First Nation’s vocal protest of the BC Lottery Corporation’s plan to build a casino in South Surrey on what the Semiahmoos believe is unceded aboriginal land.

Hall’s letter condemned the province as the only one in Canada to “categorically exclude First Nations” from entering into a revenue sharing deal on gaming operations; a policy Hall described as “not only immoral but illegal.” The proposed South Surrey casino, a partnership between BCLC and Gateway Casinos and Entertainment, 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.” As a result, Hall says BC’s chiefs “will be pursuing all opportunities to access direct benefits from gaming.”

Hall subsequently confirmed to The Province that online gaming was among the possibilities BC’s chiefs are considering. (Will GEOBet soon have another Canadian client?) In case there was any lingering doubt as to the chiefs’ intentions to go it alone, Hall said First Nations members were “not asking your permission anymore” and were “prepared to defend our rights in the courts.” Constitutional experts believe these disputes over tribal sovereignty could ultimately end up being decided at the Supreme Court, but in the meantime, expect plenty of local wrangling. Unlike in Saskatchewan, a BC First Nations online casino would directly challenge the monopoly held by the provincial government’s online gambling site, PlayNow.com. Fireworks in 3…2…1…

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