History seems to be repeating itself when it comes to the treatment of the First Nation in Canada in relation to the local gambling scene, both in terms of physical casino infrastructure and the igaming market.
Unfortunately, the laws being set regarding the gambling industry have been overlooking the needs and rights of Indigenous communities in the country.
This is not only true for the new, progressive laws regarding online gambling, but also for the laws conceived in 1985 discussing retail casinos and sports betting, which automatically put Indigenous people at a disadvantage.
The First Nation questions whether Canadian authorities responsible for the decisions being made on the matter are taking the community into consideration at all.
How is the Canadian government planning on keeping Indigenous communities and their Indigenous gaming business secure, both socially and economically?
This discussion reached a peak quite recently due to the construction of the Great Canadian Casino Resort which is soon to be inaugurated in Toronto.
The project is proving to be a real threat to the pre-existing gambling businesses set up in the same area by the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation (from hereon to be referred to as MISFN).
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke (from hereon MCK) is another indigenous community which has strongly voiced its concerns on how the newly founded igaming market in the country is very negatively impacting the Indigenous community.
The First Nation is the primary community actively rebelling and talking about the effects these recent laws are having on Indigenous peoples. Fortunately, they are also backed up by several other Canadian communities who have identified how badly mismanaged this process is.
Many in Canada seem to feel as though the regulation of igaming and new projects for casino infrastructure such as the one aforementioned, are not respecting public interest.
In fact, it must be said that Canadian authorities have only started making amendments to the relevant laws since it's so evident how the country could economically benefit from being part of the industry, and how it could lead to Canada's involvement in many more prolific businesses.
Being part of something that helps the country economically grow, does not necessarily mean that the population of the country is also enjoying any benefits it results in, and this is unfortunately especially true for communities such as the First Nation.
Canadian igaming authorities such as the iGO and AGCO are being held under the spotlight but such communities.
These authorities' ethic and process towards regulating igaming in Canada is being very negatively critiqued.
The progress of the installation of this industry in the country is deemed to be mismanaged especially according to the First Nation who, in many parts of the country has set up Indigenous gambling businesses.
These new, poorly executed laws are very much endangering the well-being and stability of the community.
Indigenous casinos such as the Great Blue Heron Casino have been major sources of income for the community, providing funds necessary for healthcare, education and housing.
These community businesses were also generating job opportunities for the First Nation.
One of the major fears being expressed is that these businesses are being threatened by huge capitalistic projects like the Casino Resort in Ontario, and by the significant presence of online gambling which could completely obliterate Indigenous casino businesses from existence.
For this reason, the community is rising up against the current igaming model being proposed by the Canadian government, specifically in Ontario.
A warped history has led to these events.
Needless to say that the native Indigenous community, both in the US and Canada, has been mistreated and shunned from the rest of the settler community for centuries.
This is the primary reason why the First Nation desperately needs Indigenous businesses to survive and be self-sufficient. It is clear why the discussion and inclusion of igaming in the country raise so many concerns within the community.
Attempts have been made to maintain open communication between the government and the First Nation to find appropriate, ideal solutions which benefit everyone involved in the situation.
However, Indigenous peoples are always at a loss, which is a not at all shocking, bet very disappointing revelation to discover how the community is still grossly overlooked by our authorities.
Let's start off with the fact that historically, First Nation employees and managers of Indigenous casino businesses have faced prosecution multiple times for their involvement in this activity.
This led to interested members of the community being completely unable to participate in the endeavour. Of course, this means they are not at all involved in the decision-making process for new igaming laws or considered to be potential business owners in the local market.
We must also mention that any of the Indigenous people's suggestions for more effective igaming business models which evolve from existing land-based casino businesses have been ignored.
This would have been an ideal solution which smoothly integrates Canada in the igaming market while safeguarding and including Indigenous casino businesses which have been active for years.
However, the unfortunate result we are currently facing is that the government is displaying a lack of interest in these people's efforts, implying that smaller, vulnerable communities in the province are not as important.
The government has often ignored any complaints coming from members of the community.
In the case of MISFN, chief Kelly LaRocca comments on how even legal agreements made between this Indigenous community in Ontario and local authorities were completely disregarded when it came to the Grand Canadian Casino Resort Project.
This $1 billion project moved forward without any consultation with the MISFN or consideration of how it could put their Indigenous casino operations at a disadvantage.
The Great Canadian Casino Resort could bring in a total revenue of $31 billion annually, and while it puts MISFN's Great Blue Heron Casino at great risk of bankruptcy, no thought has been put into how this revenue could be shared with the community.
This 400-room resort with an entertainment hall which could host up to 5,000 guests every night, is the prime example of how large capitalistic endeavours endanger local, culture-specific businesses.
Great Canadian Entertainment is a major casino operator which oversees the operation of both the Great Blue Heron Casino and the Great Canadian Casino resort, however, they have quietly sat in the background while they watched a local Indigenous community in crisis.
This is one of the major reasons the Mississaugas are throwing harsh criticism at this project, although unfortunately, it is not too far along for anything to change.
A faint ray of hope is that following the authorities' disrespect towards their previous negotiations with the MISFN, a discussion is planned for this summer 2023 to tackle the issues brought about by this major project.
It is difficult to understand how this deep scar which has torn apart Indigenous communities from our igaming officials could be healed.
As we mentioned earlier, the story with the MISFN is but one of the multiple instances where our government has disrespected and wholly overlooked the needs of the community.
The MCK officially sued government officials involved in the installation of igaming in the province and expects the lawsuit to result in the removal of these managers who are very poorly making decisions on behalf of everyone in Ontario.
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke believes that the current model being put into action actually defies the previous laws which were put in place.
This again reminds us of how hurt the community is, after having faced criminal charges for operating the Indigenous businesses and are now at risk due to projects which actually break existing laws.
The MCK also stresses the idea of revenue sharing and approaching the installation of igaming in Ontario in collaboration with fair governance, and evidently, the people currently in place do not satisfy the community's needs.
The bottom line is that the implementation of online gambling in Ontario, and all of Canada, should also benefit First Nation Communities and not endanger them.
As we have discussed extensively, igaming and casino infrastructure projects are moving forward neglecting the requirements of this community specifically, and any previous negotiations that were made with them.
It is a widely accepted fact that Canada could benefit greatly from involving itself in the igaming business but at what cost?
These projects should be beneficial to Canada's whole population and not exclude the First Nation.
Unfortunately, major entities such as the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and iGaming Ontario have all refused to comment on the matter.
The source for much of the information we shared here is MISFN's Chief Kelly LaRocca's blog post in an online newspaper.
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