Wednesday December 10,2014 : P.E.I. ENTITIES ARGUE OVER ONLINE GAMBLING LOAN
Tribal group says it does not owe a thing to the provincial government.
A failed – and expensive – online gambling partnership between the Canadian provincial government of Port Edward Island (PEI) and the tribal Mikmaq Confederacy continues to make headlines in the province, with the tribe adamant that it will not be ponying up C$990,000 it received, allegedly as a loan.
The Mi’kmaq approached the government in 2008 on behalf of the Abegweit and Lennox Island First Nations, to investigate the potential of Internet gambling.
The province agreed to lend the Confederacy C$990,000 for the project, which it now claims has not been repaid.
The loan to the confederacy was earmarked for work by a P.E.I. gaming committee, comprised of representatives from government, a legal firm and the confederacy. The confederacy claims this body incurred considerable costs in hiring legal, regulatory and technical professionals to examine the viability of the proposal.
There was a trip to England for a gaming conference in 2011 and many man-hours exploring the possibility of making P.E.I. an Internet gambling regulator.
The Confederacy claims that the conditions attached to the loan required that it be paid back from revenue generated by the online gambling initiative. Since the initiative was subsequently abandoned without generating revenues, the loan need not be repaid, it claims.
The PEI finance minister, Wes Sheridan, has rather ingenuously told the media that the outstanding loan will be repaid from future Internet gambling revenues through the Atlantic Lottery – an entirely separate enterprise.
Sheridan had predicted that online gaming revenues for P.E.I. could reach $85 million a year and pull the province out of deficit and enable it to start paying off a $2-billion debt, but the plan collapsed amid legal technicalities and jurisdictional roles of the federal and provincial governments.
Exacerbating the issue has been the apparent secrecy in which the initiative was cloaked – ostensibly due to commercial security concerns.
The need for that secrecy has now passed, and the taxpayers are entitled to know in detail how the money was spent, local media claim.