First Nations on a Warpath Against PlayAlberta.ca

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Two First Nations have begun legal proceedings against the government of Alberta, arguing that its PlayAlberta.ca website is not authorised to operate.

The province of Alberta has been under fire from two First Nations.  The two have criticised the legislation that allowed the launch of PlayAlberta.ca, with collaboration from the Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission, which regulates local gambling.

The website was launched to generate more revenue for the province during the financial crisis caused by the ongoing pandemic and the subsequent closure of land-based casinos.  PlayAlberta.ca, which was launched last autumn, has been criticised by the First Nations as being unregulated and unauthorised to operate.

Legal Issues

First Nations of Tsuut’ina and Stoney Nakoda have taken legal action against the gaming commission and the provincial authorities. Chief of Tsuut’ina, Roy Whitney, stated that because of the lockdown, the state is collecting money that would’ve otherwise been used for community purposes such as education, health and social programmes.

According to Chief Clifford Poucette of Stoney Nakoda, charities won’t receive their usual funding from the casino industry, and the money will be channelled to the provincial government. He clarified that 77% of the company’s gambling revenue is used to support local infrastructure, education, businesses and health.

The tribesmen claim that the government acting as a casino regulator and providing gambling products is a conflict of interest. Hesther Holmen, the spokesperson for the Crown agency, argued that the commission is unaware of the nature of the submitted application and refused to comment further.  However, she noted that the Crown is mindful of the effects of the lockdown restrictions on the local communities and businesses.

Councillor of Tsuut’ina, Brent Dodginghorse, stated that a 2008 moratorium on licensing new casinos in Alberta is still in force. He believes that the lengthy shutdown of casinos is imposed so Albertans will only have one option for wagering, which is the government’s online platform. Dodginghorse concluded that this is bad for the province since the government should not be regulating the casinos.

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