Gaming commission investigating native band over Internet gambling

EDMONTON (CP) — An Alberta reserve appears to be headed for a showdown with the provincial government over its bid to become a haven for Internet gambling.

The Alberta Gaming Commission is investigating the Alexander First Nation after the band recently set up its own gaming commission to offer online gaming licences, Solicitor General Fred Lindsay said in an interview.

Lindsay said Internet gaming is illegal in Alberta and he will make sure that it doesn’t happen.

“We will review the intent (of the Alexander First Nation), and if there’s any illegal activity taking place, our government will take appropriate action,” Lindsay said Thursday.

The band’s gaming commission is using its website to offer various Internet gaming licences. Application fees start at $20,000 US.

Band officials did not return calls, but an official with the band’s newly formed Internet technology firm says a large data centre is in the final stages of construction.

Cheryl Giblon, who is listed as the contact for Alexander Internet Technologies, said from her home in Toronto that she is an employee of Calgary-based eNation, which builds and manages global data centres to host online operations.

“We have nothing now, but will be open in the next quarter,” said Giblon. “They have to go to the Alexander Gaming Commission to get a licence.”

Giblon is quoted on the website saying the Alberta band is looking to compete with the Mohawk reserve in Quebec, which hosts roughly 400 Internet gambling sites.

“They’re definitely a competitor of ours and a successful business,” she said. “But the more the merrier. It’s a strong, growing industry.”

The same website describes the Alexander First Nation as “a sovereign nation located in Alberta” and says gaming revenues would be “tax-free.”

Lindsay says the province’s investigation into the band’s activities also involves officials from Alberta Justice.

“We will be in communication with (the band) in the next few days,” said the minister.

“Being illegal — we will take every action to ensure that it doesn’t happen in Alberta.” A spokesman for the Alberta Gaming Commission said the provincial gambling regulator “views illegal activity very seriously.”

Last year, the gaming investigation team, police and RCMP shut down an illegal gambling house in Edmonton, said Marilyn Carlyle-Helms, adding it proves they will take action.

“The Criminal Code places the responsibility for conducting and managing gaming activities on the provinces,” she said.

Alberta has been studying Internet gaming for several years, but has not yet made any moves to allow this type of gambling in the province.

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