First Nation will fight Ontario's new iGaming market in court

Jon Pill
Posted on: January 29, 2022 12:41 PST

Ontario, Canada will launch its new iGaming Market on April 4, 2022. However, it has almost immediately received harsh criticism from the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

iGaming Ontario is a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. When it launches in April, it will effectively be the province's regulator. Operators in the province will have to register with iGO and execute an agreement with iGO before they can take Ontarian players.

“Consumers can be assured that companies who successfully enter the new Ontario market will have met rigorous standards of game and operator integrity, fairness, player protections, and social responsibility, allowing all players to play with confidence,” Martha Otton, iGO Executive Director, said in a press release issued today.

“Prevention of underage access, ensuring compliance with applicable laws including anti-money laundering rules and regulations, and measures to enable more responsible gambling are just a few of the assurances consumers can expect in the new market as of April 4.”

The goal was to bring businesses into the state that could replace out-of-state and grey market operators

“Today, most internet gaming by Ontarians takes place on websites not conducted and managed by the province,” Otton said. “Our new internet gaming market will give consumers enhanced entertainment choice, support the growth of a new, legal market and generate revenue that can help fund programs and services that benefit all of us.”

Constitutional challenge

The press release from iGO was issued today at a little after 1 pm EST. Within two hours, another press release was issued by the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation. The MSIFN's press release announced that the First Nation will challenge the launch in court.

Kelly LaRocca, the Chief of MSIFN, said, "Today's announcement by the Ford government is a slap in the face of First Nations, and reduces their promises of reconciliation to a joke. The government completely and utterly failed to consult our First Nation — leaving their iGaming launch open to constitutional challenge. We intend to challenge the province's iGaming scheme in court."

According to the presser, under section 35 of Canada's Constitution, the province has a duty "to consult and accommodate impacted Indigenous groups."

LaRocca, who is also a lawyer, is well situated to fight this battle.

"The Ford government has recklessly ignored our concerns," LaRocca said. "And has not offered any strategies to address the impact that their inadequate plan will have on our First Nation, our culture, and our ability to provide services to our community. It is a real and significant threat. It will not stand. If the Ford government is not willing to address the harms caused by its decision, we will have to make them accountable, in an election year."

Given the rapid turnaround, the Ford government has not yet responded.

Featured image source: Flickr by Dennis Jarvis, used under CC License