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Gaming bill moves to Senate

After criticizing the House of Commons last week for passing the third reading of Bill C-218 – the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) is taking its fight to the Senate chamber.

In its current iteration, the bill could negatively impact Kahnawake’s gaming industry, thus placing its economy at risk.

On Tuesday, senators debated the bill during second reading in the upper house of Parliament.

Senator Mary Jane McCallum, who represents Manitoba and is of Cree heritage, stated that for more than two decades, Kahnawake had asserted its inherent right to conduct, facilitate and regulate gaming within its territory and asked the bill’s sponsor, conservative senator David Wells, how it would impact its jurisdiction over gaming.

Wells replied by stating that he had read the MCK’s press release.

“It was asking for them to maintain what they currently have. I don’t think that changes under this legislation,” said Wells.

“In fact, it levels the playing field so that every band, every province and every organization that regulates gambling in Canada has the same opportunity as the Mohawks have,” he continued.

As part of the strategy to protect Kahnawake’s interest, MCK chief Gina Deer has recently begun contacting senators sympathetic to Indigenous issues or that have their concerns over the bill to build as much political alliance as possible.

“I gave them background on the presentation that was made at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in March,” said Deer. “We want to follow-up some of those things with the senators because now the bill is in their house.”

Thus far, she has received one response from a senator who would be willing to meet, although she would not disclose who it was.

“I thought it was very interesting because I was almost doubtful at this point with the way things have been going with this bill,” said Deer.

The chief will also be requesting an appearance if the senate posts any hearings.

“We are anticipating that the hearing is going to be before the Parliament adjourns for the summer. And we are definitely going to be doing whatever we can,” she said.

The MCK also received a letter from the minister of Justice and attorney general of Canada, David Lametti, requesting a consultation on Bill C-13.

Bill C-13, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (single-event sports betting), was introduced by Lametti back in November 2020 and is very similar to Bill C-218.

“We know that C-218 – the private member’s bill – is moving ahead, so for us to get a request to do a consultation on C-13, which is not moving forward, is a little baffling,” said the chief.

Deer has since sent a response to Lametti’s office highlighting the issues with both bills and is awaiting a response.

“We welcome the opportunity to meet with the minister and look at the bill, but the bill that is being fast-tracked is C-218. We are trying to get answers. It’s highly problematic for us,” said Deer.

If the MCK gets the opportunity to address the Senate, Deer plans on making the government aware that Mohawk Online has recently been short-listed for the operator of the year award at the EGR (eGaming Review) North America Awards.

According to their website, the awards are part of EGR Global, the world’s leading business-to-business publisher and membership networking group for the online gaming and gambling industry.

“We are responsible operators,” she said.

Moreover, Council has also been in contact with different Indigenous communities to discuss how this bill will not only impact Kahnawake’s gaming industry, but all First Nations.

“We have had dialogue with Six Nations (of the Grand River) for quite some time. We have made Oneida aware also, and we have been talking with them. People are starting to realize what this means, and it is garnering attention,” said Deer.

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