Sunday December 8,2013 : FORMER CANADIAN CHIEF LAUNCHES ONLINE CASINO
Northern Bear online casino on servers in the Virgin Isles
Bernie Shepherd, a former chief of the Canadian White Bear tribe in the Saskatchewan province, launched his own online casino in partnership with Geobet this week, and he did not deem it necessary to consult the provincial government before doing so.
For its part, the government has complained to the national Royal Canadian Mounted Police about Shepherd's Northern-Bear Casino.com, so far with inconclusive results.
Shepherd is no stranger to gambling controversy; the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports that operating out of an office on the First Nation's reserve, Shepherd is doing essentially the same thing he did in the early 1990s when, as chief of White Bear, he was instrumental in setting up a bricks-and-mortar casino on the reserve.
Although the national police raided the facility, subsequent negotiations with the provincial government led to a gaming agreement that has resulted in six First Nations-run land casinos in the province that generate millions of dollars of profits every year.
Shepherd told CBC that he was exercising his treaty rights as a First Nation operator, and that there are no obstacles to his doing so.
"There's lots of casinos online," Shepherd told Craig Lederhouse of CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition. "If you wanted to start a casino, you can start a casino. You just have to have the where-with-all to do it. So it's not illegal to own an online casino."
Shepherd's site uses servers in the Virgin Islands in association with the company Geobet, which has been active in promoting online gambling in the tribal gambling market .
The provincial government itself has no interest in following the example of other Canadian provinces and regulating online gambling; last Monday, Donna Harpauer, the minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, said the province will not proceed with online gambling because the risks outweigh the benefits.
The minister said there are a number of legal questions surrounding Shepherd's new enterprise, and the government will be keeping an eye on it.
University of Saskatchewan law professor Norman Zlotkin interpreted that as heralding a negotiated agreement with the government.
"At some point in the relatively near future we'll have online gaming in the province," he said. "Online gaming brings money into the provincial treasury and it helps the First Nations."
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, and the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, which is responsible for the First Nations run casinos, are currently observing developments.