Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke challenges Ontario government on igaming

November 28, 2022 5:22 PM
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports
November 28, 2022 5:22 PM
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke (MCK) today announced that they’re taking the Ontario government to court over changes to the way gaming is managed in the province.

In Ontario, iGaming Ontario is working collaboratively with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and the government of Ontario to regulate the industry, protect consumers, and provide more digital gaming choices. Gaming operators first need to register with the AGCO, then execute an operating agreement with iGO before they can go live with their product. The legal market launched in Ontario on April 4, with a 20 percent tax rate on licensed operators.

MCK filed a constitutional challenge against iGO and the Attorney General of Ontario in the Ontario Superior Court this morning.

MCK was a vocal opponent of C-218, the bill that decriminalized new forms of sports gambling in Canada, which became legislation in June 2021, opening markets like Ontario up to a new landscape. Currently, 35 operators are live with digital-gaming and sports-betting platforms in the province.

MCK claims that the changes to the way gaming is managed in Ontario are illegal and unconstitutional. Their  challenge asserts that iGaming Ontario is not “conducting or managing” the gaming that takes place on private operators’ sites. Instead, iGO is allowing operators to conduct and manage their business, with a portion of revenues going to the provincial government.

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke has been in the online gaming industry for 25 years, licensing online-gaming operators on behalf of the Mohawks of Kahnawake, and says the new way gaming is being managed ignores their expertise in the gaming sector and will result in the loss of significant revenues streams to the Kahnawake.

The MCK previously operated in Ontario through its wholly owned subsidiary, Mohawk Online Limited, but was not participating in the new provincial framework.

“The plain facts are that Ontario’s actions are causing a significant loss of important revenues for our community,” says Ratsenhaienhs (elected Council Chief) Mike Delisle, Jr. ”Until these actions were taken, we were operating legally, safely, and successfully across Canada. To be shut out of Ontario – by far the largest province in Canada – will have devastating effects on a source of income that has supplemented programs and services in our community for the last two decades.”

MCK says the move to challenge the legality of the province’s legal framework was a last resort, since their attempts to engage government officials in dialogue have been “ignored.”

CDC Gaming Reports has reached out to iGO for comment.