February 08, 2010

Kahnawake hits back at Québec’s online gambling plans

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake has responded to last week’s decision by the government of Québec to authorise state lottery operator Loto-Québec to offer online gambling to the province’s residents, saying that the government has chosen to continue its “implicit demonisation of Kahnawake” instead of participating as partners with the Mohawk jurisdiction.

Kahnawake said that comments attributed to Québec Minister of Finance Raymond Bachand last week implied that the Loto-Québec initiative would negatively impact Kahnawake.

“Minister Bachand either does not understand how the online gaming industry works - or is simply using the opportunity to take a gratuitous swipe at Kahnawake for his own political reasons,” said the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake in a statement Friday.

Minister Bachand said last week that online gambling was a booming sector with Québec residents having access to some 2,000 gambling sites on the internet, with the government deciding to authorise Loto-Québec to offer online games of chance in order to combat the exponential growth in illegal online gambling.

“Loto-Québec is being given the responsibility of working to redirect this already existing but illegal gaming activity to a site that is secure, legal and trustworthy. I believe this to be an efficient way of fighting the underground economy,” said Bachand.

The Kahnawake Commission says however that by competing directly with established online gaming operators such as PokerStars, PartyGaming and Full Tilt Poker, it is difficult to understand how Loto-Québec’s “late and limited entry into the market will negatively affect, let alone ‘cannibalize’ these sites.”

Kahnawake said that Québec had failed to understand or deliberately ignored “the opportunities for synergy between Loto-Quebec and Kahnawake”, and questioned why Loto-Québec’s online gambling operation couldn’t be hosted from Mohawk Internet Technologies, a business created by the community’s band council.

Kahnawake goes further, suggesting that the Québec government could work with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission to harmonise their regulations concerning online gaming, which would be consistent with the pledges that Québec made to Kahnawake in the “Statement of Understanding and Mutual Respect” in 1998 and again in 2009.

By deciding to legalise online gaming for its own purposes, Kahnawake claims that Québec had the perfect opportunity to participate as partners to advance the developing industry, but instead Québec has chosen to continue its “implicit demonisation of Kahnawake”.

Kahnawake said that unless Québec reconsidered its position, it would “colour the relations” that Kahnawake and Québec seek to maintain in other areas. The government of Quebec however does not recognise Kahnawake as a licensing jurisdiction, with the province's criminal code stating that only the provincial government is authorised to hand out gaming licences.

Loto-Québec said it intends to launch its online gaming site including poker during the third quarter of 2010, following the Québec Cabinet’s decision to formally sanction a change to the online gaming regulation last week.

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