Ambiguity Reigns in Quebec

30 November 2007

A guilty plea by the owners of Montreal-based Golden has raised questions about first nations' rights to issue gaming licenses, but the Kahnawake Mohawk nation, which issued the license to Golden Palace, says such speculation is the result of an incorrect media report.

Cyber World Group (CWG), which runs Golden Palace through a server located on the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve just outside Montreal, in September copped to two charges of violating Part VII, S.201 of the Canadian Criminal Code (operating an illegal commercial betting enterprise) and must pay a $2 million fine. The charges stem from a raid at Golden Palace's Montreal offices more than a year ago.

Chuck Barnett of Mohawk Internet Technologies, the technology service provider for the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC), said the conviction of Golden Palace does not hinder Kahnawake's right to license online gaming operators. Contrary beliefs, he said, have been perpetuated by a report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Barnett said that MIT and KGC previously declined to comment on the situation because neither felt it pertained to them. He added that there has been no comment from the minister of security or from provincial officials.

"We were not named as a party to the charges," Barnett said. "At no time have police officials, either last year when this happened or even up to this minute, provided us with information relative to the charges, only that they are related to undertaking gaming activities within the Province of Quebec, not Kahnawake."

Furthermore, according to Barnett, at no time was any Mohawk person or entity, including the KGC and MIT, investigated, questioned, charged or in any other way implicated in the proceedings against CWG.

According to the Canadian Criminal Code, only the provincial government is authorized to hand out gaming licenses. Nonetheless, the Mohawks' position has long been that they are a separate and distinct nation from Quebec under section 35 of Canada's Constitution, which protects traditional native rights. Thus, the KGC has issued 443 licenses without consequence since its establishment in 1999.

Barnett maintains that ambiguities surrounding the case and past reports of scuffles with the Quebec government have created a false sense of conflict between the Mohawks and the provincial government.

"The Mohawk Council Kahnawake has open lines of communication with the Province of Quebec (and) the minister of security," he said.

The KGC's licensing regime, he added, is, and will remain, intact.

"The KGC will continue to license and regulate Internet gaming within and from the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake in accordance with the standards that, over the past nine years, have earned the KGC the reputation as being a respected and globally recognized regulator," Barnett said.

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.