First Nations in Canada Lobby for Larger Piece of Gambling Pie

First Nations in Canada Lobby for Larger Piece of Gambling Pie

Members of the First Nations in Canada want to increase their share of the large gambling pie. Therefore, they are asking the Canadian government to change the country’s criminal code to allow casinos nationwide.

They see native tribes in the United States raking in billions of dollars a year from their tribal gaming enterprises. The First Nations also want to reap those benefits.

Who Are the First Nations?

First Nations people in CanadaThe First Nations people in Canada are the indigenous people who live south of the Arctic Circle. The tribes who live north of the Arctic Circle are the Inuit. They have a culture that is distinct from the others. There are 634 tribes in Canada that have First Nations status. Half those tribes are in Ontario or British Columbia.

First Nations members have a special status in Canada. They are recognized as a minority group and have protected status. This means they receive special preferences with regard to job placement. Currently, First Nations tribes have about 16 casinos operating in Canada.

The Problem with the Current Law

First Nations tribal leaders have said they have a problem with the current law. Section 207 of the criminal code prohibits casinos from operating on indigenous land without the approval of the province. While some provinces, such as Ontario and British Colombia, have been accommodating with tribal needs, other provinces have not been as welcoming. Quebec has no First Nations casinos, for example.

Wanting Change

First Nations tribal representatives have said that the tribes want jurisdiction over their own tribal lands. Currently, the tribes feel they do not have control over creating better outcomes for their people. They feel if they have jurisdiction over their own territories, they can use casino gaming to create jobs. The tribes say this would create jobs that are directly tied to gambling. In addition, there is the opportunity to create jobs in response to gambling, such as those in the hospitality industry.

Casino GamblingSection 207 came about in 1985 when Ottawa and the provinces began their gambling agreements. The national government of Canada kept oversight of the criminal aspects for casino gambling, so it could enforce laws. However, the provinces received regulatory information and rules. Because the provinces control gambling, they also have control over First Nations gambling.

This is in contrast to tribal gaming in the United States. In the U.S., tribal gaming is not regulated by the states, but by the federal government instead. Native American tribes in the United States have lands that the states do not govern. In fact, reservations exist as self-governing bodies with an overall jurisdiction by the federal government. Many tribes operate casinos on their reservations in states where commercial casino gambling is illegal. For example, Alabama is a state with some of the most restrictive laws in regard to gambling. However, there are tribal casinos in the state.

There has been some pushback from provinces, as well as commercial casinos, with regard to gambling. This is because commercial casinos have to pay a larger percentage of their revenue than First Nations casinos do. The numbers can be staggering with regard to revenue. In Ontario alone, casinos rake in more than a billion dollars in revenue yearly. In Manitoba, the First Nations tribes are fighting with the province because they want to build a casino in Winnipeg. The province rejected their request. The First Nations representatives have pointed out that casinos owned by the government in larger cities are profitable. Presently, provinces have tribal casinos in rural areas.

If the tribes receive permission to build casinos, it will be a large boon for them. Therefore, First Nations representatives say they will continue to fight.

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