The First Nations of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan etched their brand into the history books on Tuesday by launching the region’s very first real money online casino. Some are calling it genius, but province officials are calling it a potential fracture of Saskatchewan law. To ensure that no directives have been breeched, officials are referring the matter to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) with a request for utmost urgency.
The Canadian online casino in question, Northern Bear Casino, is restrained to the compact laptop computer of Bernie Shepherd, CEO of the White Bear First Nation. As it happens, his title of Chief Shepherd dates back beyond 1993 when the very first brick-and-mortar casino was erected within the borders of the reservation.
A part of the tribal internet gaming network, GEObet, the confusion as to whether the Canadian online casino is legal or not is based solely on two facts; the confinement of the online casino on Shepherds laptop, and the location of the servers, which are resting comfortably upon the British Virgin Islands.
Shepherd was quick to point out that stationing servers in an offshore location, outside the borders (and jurisdiction) of the country, is “nothing new”. He stated that numerous perfectly legal online casinos and online poker rooms alike are headquartered on the isles, and have been for quite some time.
According to the criminal code of the province of Saskatchewan, the online casino must be authorized in order to operate legally. Don Morgan, speaking on behalf of Justice Minister Gord Wyant, said that the matter would be left in the hands of the courts to decide whether or not its offshore location provides for a legal framework or not.
The legalities of online casino gambling are no laughing matter, stressed Morgan. “It is something the province takes very seriously. We have referred the matter to the RCMP and we’ve had the officials within Justice start to look at it with as much speed as they can.”
Morgan went on to say that because the province is expecting to regulate and control an internet gambling infrastructure in the foreseeable future, the appearance of an online casino “that’s not operated on the framework” is “problematic for the government.” Morgan concluded that the RCMP will “have to look very carefully.”
Shepherd explained his position and right to open an online casino with offshore servers, describing his preparation of his own custom tribal iGaming Act backed by his immediate and extended family. “Laws and customs in the past were verbal, but the courts have recognized that. What we’re doing now is we’re going beyond that. We’re ensuring that when we do end up in court, what we’re doing basically is occupying the field. We want to make sure we have good governance on it. That’s why we have an iGaming Act… It’s important for the courts to see.”
He expanded on his position, saying that “a year ago I heard Premier [Brad] Wall say sovereignty rests with First Nations and I agree 100%. They can’t say ‘Yes, we have rights,’ and with the other hand, try and crush us. We have rights and we’re going to exercise those rights.”