The Alexander First Nation (AFN) said on Wednesday it would not submit to Alberta Solicitor General Fred Lindsay's warnings to halt plans to license and host online gaming companies on its reserve near Edmonton.
The AFN in February received a "cease and desist" order from Lindsay, minister of the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC), on the grounds that online gambling was against the Canadian Criminal Code.
AFN Chief Ray Arcand in a prepared statement on Wednesday defended AFN's position, noting that it is a Sovereign Nation, responsible for regulating its own territory, as protected under Section 35(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Lindsay told the Edmonton Journal on Wednesday that he "won't be stared down by the Alexander First Nation." Online casinos are outlawed in Alberta, and the federal law gives the province authority to swoop down on illegal gaming activity, he said.
"My job is to enforce the Criminal Code, not negotiate it," he said.
Despite refusing to back down, Arcand said AFN has made every effort to cooperate with the AGLC.
"We have cooperated fully and have sought to meet with the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission's and the Government of Alberta, but our requests have been refused or ignored," Arcand said. "The Government of Alberta desires to ignore our Sovereignty and our right to regulate Online Gaming transacted within our Territory, along with all of the positives of our developing economic independence, and has chosen to launch this attack."
Canadian gaming lawyer Michael Lipton said in February that AFN would have a strong case if it can prove that wagering was a major part of their ancestral heritage.
Arcand said that AFN, which entered into a treaty with Canada in 1876, has a long running history of initiating, participating in and regulating gaming activities, which are integral to the culture of the community.
Arcand added that he is willing to fight this in court, should it come to that. However, no Canadian judge has ever ruled in favor of an aboriginal group's inherent right to run gambling operations.
The AFN has established the Alexander Gaming Commission (AGC) to license and regulate offshore gaming companies. AGC has already established a data center capable of hosting over 300 online gaming companies, according to Cheryl Giblon, global sales and marketing for eNation Corporation, which built the data center.