Ontario Sports Betting & Casino Facing Challenge From Tribal Lawsuit

Ontario Sports Betting & Casino Facing Challenge From Tribal Lawsuit
By Mark Keast
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke (MCK) has challenged the government’s move to allow Ontario online casinos (or iGaming) in the province by filing a suit in Ontario Superior Court.

According to reports, the hearing has wrapped up and the decision now rests with Justice Lisa Brownstone. Ontario seeks to have the claim dismissed. MCK is a tribe based in Quebec; the challenge to the Ontario gaming industry was announced in 2022.

In Canada’s most populous province, iGaming Ontario (iGO) works with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and the government of Ontario to regulate the industry. The stated goal of the legal, regulated industry for Ontario sports betting and iGaming is to protect consumers in areas such as responsible gambling, as well as providing more digital gaming choices.

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Process For Gaming Operators

Gaming operators first need to be successfully registered with the AGCO, then they need to execute an operating agreement with iGO before they can go live with their product. The legal market launched in Ontario April 4, with a 20% tax rate on licensed operators. In the province, iGaming Ontario conducts and manages the industry, as defined by iGaming Ontario.

MCK has been a vocal opponent of C-218, the bill that decriminalized new forms of sports gambling in Canada and opened the door for Ontario sportsbook apps and the like. That bill became law in June 2021, paving the way to where we are now.

The Ontario market currently has 49 licensed operators and 79 gaming websites up and running. In the third quarter of the 2023-24 fiscal year alone (October to December, the fourth quarter of the 2023 calendar year), Ontarians wagered $17.2 billion in total just with Ontario casino apps and sportsbooks. Ontario is one of the largest online gambling markets in North America.

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Ontario iGaming Case According To Tribe

MCK says the changes to the way gaming is managed in Ontario are illegal and unconstitutional. Their legal challenge asserts that iGaming Ontario is not “conducting or managing” the gaming that takes place on private operators’ sites. The tribe says that, instead, the iGO lets operators conduct and manage their business, with a portion of revenues going to the provincial government.

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake has been in the online gaming industry for 25 years, licensing online gaming operators, on behalf of the Mohawks of Kahnawake. They contend that the new way gaming is being managed ignores their expertise in the gaming sector and will result in the loss of significant revenues streams to the community of Kahnawake.

The MCK previously operated in Ontario through its wholly owned subsidiary, Mohawk Online Limited, but was not participating in the new provincial framework. To be shut out of Ontario will have devastating effects on a source of income that has supplemented programs and services in our community for the last two decades, MCK has said.

Keep following OntarioBets.com for more industry coverage and the best paying casinos for iGaming customers in the province.



Mark Keast has recently covered the sports betting industry in Canada for The Parleh, and is a long-time sportswriter and editor, most notably with the Toronto Sun.

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