Strength in numbers.
That’s the message from the Mohawk Council of Kahnawàke and Six Nations of the Grand River.
The pair of communities have signed a Mutual Cooperation Agreement on Gaming as frustrations with the Canadian government grow.
Amongst the concerns are First Nations exclusion from Bill C-218 – legislation allowing provinces to regulate single-event sports wagering.
The Ontario sports betting market will open on April 4. But critics want to halt the launch.
They say the move will push Indigenous Peoples out of the gaming expansion.
“This is being clearly demonstrated by the recent actions of the government of Ontario, which has unilaterally reinterpreted the ‘conduct and manage provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada and established an ‘igaming’ initiative under its authority, iGaming Ontario,” said the joint press release.
Agreement aims to protect Indigenous jurisdiction “by any means possible”
With mounting frustrations, the Indigenous community has taken matters into its own hands.
Consider the agreement centres around defending and strengthening Indigenous jurisdiction over gaming “by any means possible.” “Any means” includes the development of a national body of Indigenous gaming regulators.
Alongside that, the Nations said there would be mutually beneficial legal, political and public relations opportunities for both.
They hope to set an example and invite all Indigenous communities across Turtle Island to join in.
“This type of partnership is the first step in demonstrating the possibilities of what we can achieve as Iroquois communities if we work together,” said Six Nations Chief Mark Hill. ”
“We are much stronger not as individuals, but as a collective, and these relationships will strengthen us as we assert our rights and jurisdiction within the gaming industry and beyond.”
Senators expressed concerns surrounding bill months ago
At Bill C-218’s passing, several senators voiced concern about its potential impact on Indigenous groups. An amendment proposed to include Indigenous governments explicitly failed to pass the Senate.
“Without recognizing indigenous governments, it will further entrench the material disadvantage that many Indigenous councils face,” said Senator Marilou McPhedran, at the time.
“Further without this amendment, C-218 does not give First Nations a clear path to exercise their rights.”
Since then, little has progressed.
Although MCK Chief Mike Delisle has stated Attorney General David Lametti sent a letter., it should be noted.
Reportedly, Lametti said the government wanted to work with indigenous communities to achieve an amicable solution. But, according to Delisle, there’s been no meaningful progress since that communication.
MCK already an established, respected gaming entity
With all that said, MCK said it still plans to operate in Ontario, with or without an agreement in place between the government and Indigenous communities.
The idea remains a bit of a grey area, however.
MCK has regulated online gaming since 1999 via its sovereign Kahnawàke Gaming Commission.
In 2015, MCK’s first online gaming entity based on the reserve, Mohawk Online, was launched. Nowadays, Mohawk Online runs Sports Interaction. However, that site first came online in 1997.
Additionally, Entain recently acquired Sports Interaction when it bought Avid Gaming. But, licensed to Mohawk Online, Sports Interaction operates under the KGC jurisdiction.
In theory, Sports Interaction could apply for an Ontario license.
But Delisle isn’t keen on the idea.
Sports Interaction already has a license with KGC. Plus, registering in Ontario would mean paying taxes to the Ontario government. Instead, the plan is to keep regulating SI independently.
Forecast of Ontario sports betting market
With less than a month-and-a-half to go to the big launch, there is sure to be more news to follow.
Outside of the conflict, several big players have already entered the fray. PointsBet, Rivalry, and theScore are three of the first operators to register with the Alcohol Gaming Commission of Ontario.
According to an Eilers & Krejcik report, Ontario sportsbooks could pull in as much as $570 million this year.