Monday, October 2, 2006

Six Nations interests involved in offshore gambling

My local newspaper, the Hamilton Spectator, launched a major redesign today. It's the first one in just three years, and while it does look a bit more appealing and easier to read it's still mostly a broadsheet version of a tabloid. In one respect, though, I do appreciate its attempt to be even handed in talking about who's who and what's what in the ongoing struggle at Douglas Creek in Caledonia the last few months. But with the reformatting, the Spec decided to drop the other shoe today and I wonder if it'll have the unintended consequence of making the battle between Six Nations and Haldimand County even worse.

In the first of a four part series running this week, the paper reports the same guys who make cigarettes on reserve and sell them overseas (but can't sell them to non-natives in Canada because the tobacco growing monopoly won't let them) host several servers for off-shore Internet gambling sites. In essence, they've taken a page from their Mohawk brothers and sisters in Kahnawake, on Montréal's south shore, and set up their own independent "gaming commission." Only in this case, they didn't even ask the elected band council for permission; much to the annoyance of Chief David General, who wishes there was a referendum on reserve to resolve the issue. The operation has managed to divide reserve residents, some who wish it would all go away.

What makes it even more complicated, says the paper, is that Grand River Enterprises (GRE) was recently awarded contracts to supply and maintain software for six federal departments. This is the real irony of the situation, in my opinon: They don't consider themselves to be Canadians, although the Jay Treaty granted the Iroquois and some other tribes dual US-Canadian citizenship; yet they still feel confident enough to provide services to what they consider a foreign power. Meanwhile, Canadians are going online and playing these games which is technically not illegal (unlike for Americans) but the hosting of the games definitely is

The Québec government pretty much knows what goes on at Kahnawake but doesn't want to provoke another Oka standoff, although they and the legal casinos in Montréal, Lac Leamy and Charlevoix are losing tons of money to the "outlaw" operators. Given how bad things are already in Caledonia, I doubt Dalton McGuinty wants to get involved too much on this one either.

Why do I think the Spec is taking sides on this one? While it is scrupulous to say that not all Six Nations members support GRE, it also points out that everyone there is either employed by the group or knows someone who is. If the people off of the reserve in Caledonia, already struggling because of dropped business levels, suspect that whatever money is being spent left has come from ill-gotten gains, it could provoke violence and even bloodshed. And the main principle the Exempt Media operates on is good news is no news; if it bleeds it leads. Morbidly, I think they want a revolution to break out.

I have to read the rest of the series to see how it plays out; but for a "new" newspaper this isn't exactly the best way to start out. As for the law ... well, I think it's time to change it. Make online gaming legal, and tax it or collect a commission off the revenues just as we do for the tribal casinos in Orillia and Scugog Island. It took Canada 700 years to make craps legal, it shouldn't take that long to bring a dark area of the Internet back into the light.

UPDATE (5:19 PM EDT, 2119 GMT): Online gaming firms as well as Canadian software companies who provide services to them took a hit on the stock market today after the US Congress passed a law making it illegal for US credit card companies to accept charges for such bets. (It was a rider tacked onto a Coast Guard spending bill.) Do they really think they can stop the plague this way by forcing it even further underground? They've just given a huge boost to money changing services like Western Union and the mostly Arab-run hawalas, which will only exacerbate relations between Christians and Muslims even more. Come on guys, legalize it. You'll get more money taxing winnings than you'll spend prosecuting what are essentially clearing houses to begin with.

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26/12/2007 11:47:35 PM
I love gambling online and everyone should be given the opportunity to gamble over the
Internet. It doesn't matter where they live as long as they are at least 18 years old.

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