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Tsuu T'ina, Stoney Nakoda take province to court over gaming website

Last Updated Apr 7, 2021 at 12:58 pm MDT

Chief Roy Whitney of the Tsuu T'ina First Nation. (PHOTO: Dave Will, 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – Two Alberta First Nations are taking the government to court over what they call unauthorized entry into the casino and gaming market.

The legal action centres around the province’s online gaming site, Play Alberta, which was launched last October and is the only the regulated online gambling site in the province.

However, the Tsuu T’ina and Stoney Nakoda First Nations argue that Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) has overstepped its authority by becoming a vender of casino and gaming products in the province.

Tsuu T’ina Chief Roy Whitney said the province has closed casinos for most of the pandemic and launching Play Alberta actually takes money away from important charities.

“For us, these charity dollars are used to support our health, education, housing and social programs.”

Meanwhile, Councillor and CEO of Tsuu T’ina Gaming Brent Dodging Horse said they have had agreements and worked with governments in the past, but Play Alberta is breaking all of them.

“The province has abandoned any sense of partnership with land-based casinos and rolled with their online gaming platform acting as competition to all casinos and legislating that they are the only ones that can operate this service in Alberta during COVID.”

Dodging Horse added the mandate of AGLC is “to oversee the gaming, liquor and cannabis industries in Alberta” and not to operate or be in the business of gaming in Alberta, calling Play Alberta a clear conflict of interest.

The province estimates that within five years, Play Alberta will generate $150 million but according to Chief Aaron Young of Stoney Nakoda, that money will come at the expense of land-based casinos and the charities that operate events there.

The Tsuu T’ina Gaming Limited Partnership operates the Grey Eagle Casino outside Calgary, which hosts many events benefiting the Dit’onik’odza Charities which support the First Nation community.

Young said casinos contribute $350 million to Alberta charities but the province will be taking up to 15 of that revenue away as a result of its gaming site.

Chief Clifford Poucette added that expenses for Tsuu T’ina and Stoney Nakoda such as infrastructure and education receive little to no assistance from the province to provide and they can’t stand idly by while watching the government diminish its ability to provide for its residents.

“It is unfortunate that the province has put us in this position of having to take this action before the Courts,” said Poucette. “However, this government has simply refused to enter meaningful discussions.”