Court Dismisses Ontario Sports Betting Challenge By First Nations

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Ontario sports betting

The Ontario sports betting market got another nod of approval this week.

On Monday, the Ontario Superior Court dismissed a case against the iGaming Ontario online gambling market submitted by the Mohawk Council of Kahnawàke in 2022. The court said the online Ontario sports betting and online casino market is working in accordance with the Canadian Criminal Code.

“We have always been confident in our model and are pleased that the court has ruled in our favor, and that Ontarians can continue to play with confidence in our regulated igaming market,” iGaming Ontario executive director Martha Otton said in a statement. “Ontario’s model meets the requirements and contributes to the public good by protecting players, their data and their funds, while helping to fund priority public services in Ontario, and bringing well-paid, high-tech jobs and economic development to Ontario.”

Ontario sports betting market doubts

Even before Ontario launched its open online gambling market in April 2022, the MCK was casting doubts the market was legal. For more than 25 years, the MCK has operated its online gaming products across Canada sports betting through its sovereign Kahnawáke Gaming Commission.

When the MCK filed the constitutional challenge, MCK Council Chief Mike Delisle, Jr., hoped lawmakers would include a carve-out for First Nation gaming entities. He said the new market causes significant revenue losses for the MCK community.

“Our goal is to protect our jurisdiction that we have built for over 25 years, acquiring an AGCO permit would obviously diminish if not extinguish that. The tax issue is another aspect to our objection, as we will not pay taxes to a foreign government entity,” Delisle told LSR in 2022.

The MCK did not respond to a request for comment.

MCK battles with Ontario

In 2022, the MCK and Six Nations of the Grand River signed an agreement to “defend, by any means possible” their jurisdiction on gambling. There was First Nation opposition throughout the legalization process of sports betting in Canada, which passed in 2021.

In February 2022, Entain acquired Avid Gaming, which owns Sports Interaction, the sportsbook licensed by MCK’s Mohawk Online

Mohawk Online remains involved with Sports Interaction but removed itself from the Ontario operations when the sportsbook received a license in August 2022, according to Delisle. 

Online sports betting growth

Following its second full year of operation, iGaming Ontario announced the market had nearly 50 operators that have taken CAD $63 billion (USD $45 billion) in wagers. The province generated CAD $2.4 billion (USD $1.76 billion) in revenue from gambling activities.

Online casinos made up CAD $51.7 billion (USD $37.9 billion) of the wagers. Ontario regulates phased out its transition period for unregulated gray-market operators in October 2022.

The CAD $63 million handle was a 77% increase in market size compared to the first year’s CAD $35.6 billion (USD $26.5 billion). The figures do not include those from Ontario Lottery and Gaming.

Photo by Shutterstock/Iryna Tolmachova