Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, is greeted by Tsuut'ina Chief Roy Whitney, centre, and National Chief Perry Bellegarde as he arrives on the Tsuut'ina First Nation near Calgary, on Friday, March 4, 2016. Two Alberta First Nations are taking the Alberta government and the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission to court over their entry into the online gaming sector. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Alberta First Nations say provincially regulated gambling website unauthorized

Alberta First Nations say provincially regulated gambling website unauthorized

CALGARY — Two First Nations are taking the Alberta government and its gaming commission to court over the province’s entry into the online gambling sector.

Play Alberta, a provincially regulated site launched last fall, offers virtual slots and table games while casinos remain shut down due to COVID-19.

The province has said it expects the site to raise more than $3.7 million in 2021.

The Tsuut’ina and Stoney Nakoda First Nations in southern Alberta want the courts to shut down the site and have filed an application for a judicial review. They argue Alberta’s move is an “unauthorized and impermissible” entry into the casino and gaming market.

“As our casinos remain closed during this pandemic, the provincial government through (the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission) has entered the gaming business,” said Tsuut’ina Chief Roy Whitney at a news conference Wednesday.

“By entering online gaming, this government is taking away charity dollars, dollars that charities rely upon. For us, these charity dollars are used to support our health, education, housing and social programs.”

Tsuut’ina operates the Grey Eagle casino on its land just southwest of Calgary. The Stoney First Nation has the Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino in Kananaskis Country, a recreational area west of the city.

“Stoney and Tsuut’ina charities will … not be able meet the needs of our people by losing money to the province,” said Chief Clifford Poucette of Stoney Nakoda’s Wesley band.

“Seventy-seven per cent of revenue generated for charities in First Nation casinos is spent on housing, infrastructure, education, and health.

“It is unfortunate that the province has put us in this position of having to take this action before the courts. However, this government has simply refused to enter meaningful discussions.”

The application argues that the gaming commission has overstepped its jurisdiction by becoming a vendor of casino and gaming products and, as a regulator, is in a direct conflict of interest.

A spokeswoman for the commission said it isn’t aware of the nature of the court application and couldn’t comment.

But Heather Holmen said the commission recognizes the significant financial impact COVID-19 has had on businesses, charities and individuals.

“Like most jurisdictions in Canada, Alberta has recently started offering online gaming. As in all Canadian jurisdictions, online gaming is conducted and managed by the provincial authorities in accordance with the Criminal Code of Canada,” she said in an email.

Brent Dodginghorse, a Tsuut’ina Nation councillor and chief executive officer of Tsuut’ina Gaming, said a moratorium on the creation and granting of new casinos in Alberta has been in place since 2008.

“During COVID, the province has closed casinos for a prolonged period of time, which also ensures that they are the only option available to those who want to play casino games,” Dodginghorse said.

“We have taken the business risk of building and operating a casino and agreed to share revenue with the province. It is bad faith for the province to do anything with online revenue other than allocate it proportionately to existing casinos.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2021.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy speaks to his players during the team's practice Tuesday, March 16, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
CF Montreal puts on a show, defeating Toronto FC 4-2 in MLS season opener

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — CF Montreal, carving open Toronto FC’s defence, cruised… Continue reading

Demonstrators using umbrellas as shields approach a point in a perimeter security fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Journalists allege police harassment at Minnesota protests

Some journalists covering protests over the police fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,… Continue reading

A container ship is docked in the Port of Montreal, Wednesday, February 17, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal dockworkers begin weekend strikes as talks drag on

MONTREAL — Dockworkers at the Port of Montreal kicked off a series… Continue reading

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Most Read