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Online Gambling Conflict In Saskatchewan Canada

By: Adam Baker, Wednesday November 7th 2012
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Starting online gambling in jurisdictions where it is not legal has always been difficult. Usually it is the state that starts such operations. However, in the province of Saskatchewan in Canada, the First Nation tribe is testing waters by launching its own online casino.

The Saskatchewan First Nation tribe has announced the launch of its online casino in conjunction with the GeoBET Gambling Network according to The Star Phoenix newspaper. The driving force behind this venture is Bernie Shepherd, the former Chief of the White Bear who is associated with the Indian owned land-based casinos in Canada. Shepherd said that based on advice from industry experts and lawyers and his own experience he has not engaged with the provincial Government at any level for this project. He told the newspaper, “I’m establishing our jurisdiction. We have inherent rights - treaty rights and constitutional rights. In our minds, this is legal.” He wanted the Saskatchewan First Nations to take market share in the rapidly growing, multibillion-dollar online gambling industry. A gaming act has been drafted to govern the online activity.

Toronto lawyer Javad Heydary stated that running an online gambling operation was illegal in Canada. He was sure that the government would not sit quiet, but was unsure of the exact response that would be evoked. However, almost immediately Donna Harpauer, the minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, responded by stating that the province had decided against going in for online gambling in the footsteps of Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario. She confirmed that the government had considered opening an online casino, either in its own or in conjunction with the Saskatchewan First Nation tribe. However, six months ago, it had dropped the idea because the social risks involved far outweighed the benefits. As things stand, Harpauer clarified, if anyone launches an online casino in Saskatchewan, it would be illegal.

Gerry Gionet, chief executive officer of the GEObet Network said that this would be one of the finest online casinos in the market. GEObet Network’s goal is to unite tribal gaming in the online gambling arena by offering turnkey, live online casinos to First Nations and Tribes in North America. The Saskatchewan First Nation tribe online casino operates on the GEObet Gambling Network which is run internationally under the name Olympian Trading Limited. It is licensed in Curacao, Malta and Kahnawake and offers a sports book, poker room and online casino.

An informal poll voted overwhelmingly to shut down the First Nation online casino if it launched. 59% of the respondents wanted the online casino to shut down, 19% wanted it to function, whilst 13% wanted the provincial government run its own online operation.

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