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Poker News | World Poker News

Joe Norton AKA Absolute Poker?

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Joseph Tokwiro Norton may have been well known within the Kanesatake Mohawk nation of Quebec, Canada, but until recently most people in the poker community had never heard of him. Due to the recent Absolute scandal, his name has surfaced many times as the owner of Tokwiro Enterprises ENRG, which holds a 100% interest in Absolute Poker.

Reading the statement he released about the Absolute poker scandal has many of us wondering just who this man is, and what his background consists of.

If we do our research, we find that Norton was born in 1950 in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, Quebec. Sometime after he left school at 16 years old, he was a member of the Ironworker's of America Union, where he worked on building projects in the northeastern United States. At 28 years old, he was elected to his first public office, The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake. Two years later, he was elected to the position of Grand Chief, an office he held until his retirement in 2004.

Due to his 26 years in the public eye, Norton is no stranger to conflict, controversy and accusations. During his tenure as Grand Chief of the Montreal-area Mohawk Council of Kahnawake from 1980-2004, Norton, like any public official, had his supporters and detractors. However, in the various controversies that Norton was involved in during his 24 year stretch as Grand Chief, he seems to have amassed an unusual amount of opponents, even for a long term public official.

While serving as Grand Chief, his community became embroiled in the Oka crisis of 1990. During that summer, Mohawks at the nearby community of Kanesatake clashed with police and soldiers in a 78-day standoff. They were trying to prevent the town of Oka from expanding a golf course onto land claimed by the native band.

In the early 1990's Norton was accused of condemning some of the Kahnawake for running a bingo game, yet in April of 1996, he was instrumental in getting the Kahnawake Gaming Law passed, which allowed internet gaming. The passage of the Gaming Act may have spawned the idea for starting Mohawk Internet Technologies (MIT).

In June of 1998, at an Indian Act Council meeting, Joe Norton stated that he was asserting Mohawk sovereignty. This lead to publicity that the Mohawks were declaring Kahnawake a duty free zone and were asserting sovereignty over the Montreal South Shore, taking control of waterways, highways and railways. This was Norton's retort to Quebec's attempt to violate a Canadian law that affirmed Aboriginal tax-free jurisdiction. This was all relating to the tobacco tax laws, which were intended to stop the sale of tax-free cigarettes on Indigenous land, by collecting tobacco taxes from manufacturers instead of from the sellers.

Norton had already admitted his role in negotiating an under the table agreement with the government of Quebec, which supposedly allowed Byron Horn of Club Rez to pay a lower rate of tax on the sale of cigarettes than anyone else was paying. The uproar was over the fact this secret deal benefited only one person, and not the entire Kahnawake nation.

Public opinion was that he was taking a position that was not his to take, since he had acted alone, failing to consult the Mohawk people Although Norton may have been right when he declared, "...that the Mohawk Nation has a right to take control of its territory," it was believed the responsibility to govern such an issue should have been handled by the government that represented the people, not by the Band Council that Norton was a member of, since that council was said to represent the Canadian government. Since The Indian Act Band Council could only operate on land that had been ceded, which Kahnawake was not, Norton was then accused of operating under an illegal band council system.

In March of 1999, Norton was instrumental in forming Mohawk Internet Technologies (MIT) with the help of a five million dollar seed fund. The goal of MIT was to establish an ISP service. In 2004 the business was expanded with the infusion of nine million dollars in development funds.

In 2003 he backed a plan to open a casino, even though in the 90's he had openly opposed bingo. Norton said the casino would spur local economic development. In October of that year, a referendum was held on whether to open a casino, a plan which was rejected by 57% of the voters.

In 2004 Norton garnered the outrage of many in his community when he was embroiled in controversy relating to Kanesatake's police department. Norton was accused of bringing in his own appointed police force to help quell the rampant crime situation. The people of Kanesatake signed a petition informing both Quebec and the Federal Governments, that they wanted their police force left as it was, and not as Norton envisioned it. It was estimated that up to 80% of Norton's own people were against him on this issue.

On the plus side for Norton, while acting as Grand Chief, his supporters credited him with many positive achievements. He was publicly praised for being "A respected Aboriginal voice both in Canada and abroad, he forever changed his community. This, coupled with the advances Chief Norton has brought to Kahnawake in health care, education, care for seniors, made at home policing and culture and recreation, make him a great Aboriginal achiever."

He was also lauded as the founder and chair of the Tewatohni'saktha Economic Development Commission, which employs 500 band members and is geared towards a successful tomorrow.

Norton is also noted as being the force behind Canada's First National Aboriginal IT Training Program. According to TeKnoWave Inc., headquartered in Ottawa, "they are a non-profit corporation that has been formed to oversee the delivery of IT, Business and Sustainable Energy Training programs that creates the essential technical and managerial capacity within the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis populations, enabling the achievement of community social and economic goals, creating employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, and building Aboriginal self-reliance. The overall goal (IT sector) is to develop 1000 Aboriginal IT professionals to optimize the prospects for employments, to bridge the existing skills gap, to provide innovative permanent solutions to community IT needs."

Norton has always seemed to wear many hats at once, as shown by his past and current association with various companies. While his Tribal affiliations are deep rooted as shown by his 26 years of serving in office, he appears to have had his fingers in several other pies as well. A summery of his present and past affiliations are:

• Chief Executive Officer and Board of Trustees member of Mohawk Internet Technologies, which he founded with a partner from the US.
• Owner of Tokwiro Enterprises which is sole owner of The Absolute Poker website.
• Member of the Board of Directors of TeKnoWave,
• Founder and Chief Executive Officer Turtle Technologies Lt,
• Vice President of Non-Gaming and Intergovernmental Affairs.

This month saw the disclosure of probably the biggest and most financially devastating scandal of Joe Norton's life. Rumors and accusations abound on chat boards, news sites and blogs regarding the Absolute Poker cheating scandal and Norton's possible complicity.

In many circles, Norton is not a popular guy, and was accused of being the Ottawa based Quebec government's "puppet" while in office. On one Mohawk website, a woman claiming to be Norton's cousin had this to say about him: "Before retiring out of the "grand chief" business, Norton brought an outside mega online gambling business into Kahnawake. He also allowed the expansion of a highway through the community that was opposed by our members. Hey, this is an "equal opportunity" guy. He doesn't care who he destroys. Families with gambling addicts or the community he no longer lives in. After he retired he moved into a huge mansion in ritzy Rockcliffe, right next door to his colonial masters in Ottawa. He is now the vice-president of this MIT internet gambling company. He gets paid almost a million dollars a year for his "suffering"!"

While Norton's enemies may be quick to judge his involvement based on purported past indiscretions, it is only fair to withold judgment until the jury is in. But still we wonder, and then we read that "Absolute Poker and the Absolute Poker website are solely owned and operated by Tokwiro Enterprises ENRG. Tokwiro Enterprises ENRG is owned by a Mohawk of Kahnawake." The words "A Mohawk" jump out at us, telling us that there is one owner, which is Joe Norton, and as owner, the buck stops there.

President Harry Truman was a poker player. He had a plaque on his desk which proclaimed "The buck stops here." The saying comes from the slang expression "pass the buck" which means passing the responsibility on to someone else. "Passing the buck" is said to have originated with the game of poker, in which some sort of marker was used to indicate who the dealer was. A common marker (dealer button) in the frontier days was a knife with a buckhorn handle. If the player wanted to pass the deal, he would pass the responsibility of dealing by passing the "buck" (buckhorn knife), to the next player.

Truman knew what we hope Joe Norton knows. When you are the head honcho, the buck stops at you. Whether involved or not, you are responsible, you are stuck with the deal, you can't pass it.

The Absolute Poker site states: "Absolute Poker is licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission that enforces regulations designed to ensure, amongst other goals, that: (1) only suitable persons/entities operate within Kahnawake; (2) all games offered are fair to the player; and (3) all winners are paid".

We hope they live up to their company goals and (1) Get rid of and prosecute any persons found to be unsuitable persons/entities operating within Kahnawake; (2) Ensure that all games remain fair and secure to the player, and (3) pay back all those who lost money because of the compromised security.

*Photo courtesy of CBC news*

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