First Nation Upset About Ontario iGaming

By Ben Hamill - February 06 2022

First Nation Upset About Ontario iGaming

The Ontario iGaming market is set to open on April 4th. This is big news, not in the least because many predict the region could be amongst the most lucrative in the world. But not everyone is happy about the development. The Mississauga of Scugog Island First Nation (MSIFN) have come forward to say that the online expansion is nothing short of a disrespectful slap in the face.

Ontario currently has 30 operators ready to go live, a massive population of 15 million, and an estimated annual revenue of around $1 billion. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the area is a goldmine. But this potential profitability of online gambling is exactly what the First Nation is worried about. Chief Kelly La Rocca made a statement on behalf of the MSIFN, explaining that the Ford government has entirely ignored her calls for consideration.

She went on to stress that no strategies have been offered to help negate the impact the open iGaming market will have on her people. She added that her culture, and the nation’s ability to provide services, are going to be put at risk.

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Holding Ford Accountable

LaRocca went on to declare that if Ford does not address harms that his government is causing, the First Nation will hold him accountable during an election year. There has been no response from the Ontario government so far, but it certainly seems as if the MSIFN are serious about their threats.

This sort of conflict between the First Nations and the Canadian government isn’t new, especially when it comes to gambling. In The United States legislation was passed, referred to as the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA.) The act means that sovereign tribes are allowed to offer Class II gaming services as they see fit. In order to offer Class III services, the tribe must enter into a contract with the government, after which the tribe is assured against future competition from any state run enterprises.

No such legislation exists in Ontario, or Canada as a whole.

An Affront To Sovereignty

The Canadian government acknowledges the sovereignty of tribes and allows them to offer gaming services. But authorities do not recognise gambling as integral to MSIFN culture. Hence these services are only allowed to be offered according to provincial law.

This segmented approach has resulted in major conflict over the years, more so that legal matters related to casinos are always handled by provincial governments. In other words, if the MSIGN has issues with casino related matters, the state will not respond.

Importantly, however, all of the above doesn’t mean that conflict has to exist. What it does mean is that local authorities must be willing to engage with a tribe to resolve conflict.