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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Canada Looks to UIGEA-type Ban for Kahnawake Gaming Sites

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The federal government in Canada has recently expressed significant concerns about internet gaming in the country, with a specific focus on the several hundred poker, sports betting, and other gaming-related sites that operate with licenses controlled by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. The sticking point has been and will be the fine line of the law as it stands through the federal government and how that carries over to the Mohawks’ sovereign nation.

The National Post in Canada
is reporting that the federal government is considering taking new steps in its effort to outlaw internet gaming sites based on the Quebec Mohawk territory. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission currently hosts more than 450 domains for more than 60 gaming operators.

“Following recent concerns surrounding internet gambling in Canada, the Minister of Justice [Rob Nicholson] has asked his officials to examine whether the enforcement of the Criminal Code provisions could be assisted with other measures,” said Genevieve Breton, Mr. Nicholson’s Director of Communications.

The “other measures” referred to by Breton include restricting banks and credit card companies from conducting financial transactions with internet gaming websites. These types of restrictions seem all too familiar to citizens of the United States who have been subject to the U.S. government’s Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) since late 2006 when it was enacted by Congress. The UIGEA prohibits banks and credit card companies from allowing financial transactions with online gaming sites, though more than a year after it was signed into law, the details of it are so ambiguous that most financial institutions are still unclear as to how to enforce it.

While Ottawa reviews their own position on the issue of online gaming and comes to a decision regarding their approach, the Mohawks of Kahnawake assert that the laws of the federal government pertaining to this business do not apply to their sovereign nation. According to Section 35 of the Constitution, the native culture is protected, and the Mohawks declare that gaming is central to their culture.

Supporting the Mohawk position is Michael Lipton, a Toronto-based attorney who specializes in gaming law. He noted in the National Post article that the horse racing industry has somewhat of a monopoly on gambling in Canada and dislikes the thought of online gaming infringing upon its monopoly-like status. He also alluded to the problems the U.S. has had with the UIGEA thus far. “They are completely bogged down on how to block this system.”

Lipton suggested that the government look into regulation of the online gaming industry rather than the prohibition of it. “I think [Ottawa] should embrace this and recognize that people don’t want to be in a position where the government tells them what they can or can’t do in the peace of their own home.”

With any luck, the Canadian government will take note of the confusion surrounding the UIGEA in America and not follow in the footsteps of a system that is obviously not working and is certainly not in the best interest of its citizens or its financial well-being.

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