First Nations File Lawsuit Against Alberta for iGaming Site
After Play Alberta launched online, the First Nations decided to sue the government claiming the province has no right to offer such gambling options.
When it comes to tribal gaming and commercial options, the legalities can get tricky. In the United States and Canada, there are agreements made between local tribes and states/provinces that dictate how gambling can take place. Such compacts can include details on commercial gaming, tribal options, and the online casino industry. In Canada, the province of Alberta is currently facing a lawsuit after the First Nations decided to file a suit once the region launched Play Alberta, an online gaming site.
The Tsuut’ina and Stoney Nakoda First Nations are not happy with the recent launch of Play Alberta. They feel the operation is unauthorized and impermissible. The site launched last year and offers online slot games, table games and instant-win lottery titles. Currently, it is the only online gaming platform available in the province.
The tribes feel the site should not be operational. They say the Alberta Gaming & Liquor Commission overstepped its authority when it became an operator. The tribes say this is a direct conflict of interest when it comes to the ALGC and the tribal operations.
In the lawsuit, the ALGC issued a gambling license to itself which is a violation of the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act. If the ALGC did not approve licensing, then the online gaming site is operating illegally without licensing.
Earlier this week, a Zoom news conference took place with the First Nations discussing thoughts on the case. Tsuut’ina Gaming CEO Brent Dodging Horse said that the job of the ALGC was to oversee the gaming, liquor, and cannabis industries in the province. They are not allowed to offer business services within any of the sectors.
The CEO stated further that the province has removed any semblance of partnership with land-based gaming facilities and started their own online gaming platform. They are now acting as competition to casinos in Alberta. At the same time, they are legislating the ones that can operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In October, the AGLC established a committee of advisors for Play Alberta. The committee consists of individuals from the gaming industry in the province. These people support the relationship with existing gaming venues. According to Dodging Horse, the Play Alberta site has broken relationships and agreements that the tribal operators had with the governments in the past.
It doesn’t help that the COVID-19 pandemic is still an issue in Alberta. Casinos in the province have been shut down for about four months due to the pandemic. This means that Play Alberta is the only option in the province for casino gaming at the moment.
While the casinos remain closed, the charities that rely on land-based gaming are losing support. The charities of the First Nations are no longer able to meet the needs of members. A total of 77% of the revenues provided to charities go towards housing needs, education, health, and infrastructure.
The First Nations have now taken legal action on the matter as the government has refused to have meaningful discussions on the matter. The tribes are hopeful that they can get back to work soon in order to provide for their charities as well as provide employment to members.
It is unclear as to if the lawsuit filed by the tribe will move forward or if they have no legal standing. It seems that the AGLC does not have the authority to license themselves, so will it turn out they received licensing in a different manner? More details in this case should be provided in the future, so we have a clearer picture as to what is taking shape in Alberta.