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Battle Royal

Online gaming issue arises in Saskatchewan

Battle Royal

A battle over online gaming is brewing in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

Bernie Shepherd, former chief of the White Bear First Nation, has launched the province’s first online gaming website out of his office on the property of Northern Bear Casino. Shepherd is the CEO of Northern Bear, a casino that tangled with the Royal Canadian Mountain Police when it was first established back in 1993. Shepherd is pursuing his new online enterprise like he did with the casino—without legal approval by the provincial government.

“I’m establishing our jurisdiction. We have inherent rights—treaty rights and constitutional rights. In our minds, this is legal,” Shepherd said.

Bypassing provincial authority, Shepherd has crafted with his extended family the Wapi Muskwa (White Bear, in Cree) Gaming Act to govern their i-gaming activity. The website, northernbearcasino.com, operates through servers on the British Virgin Islands and is part of the GEObet online tribal gambling network. Shepherd said using offshore servers is a common practice among casino and poker sites.

But Saskatchewan’s RCMP may not see it that way. The province has been debating for years a way to control and regulate online gambling, a business the cabinet decided in June was not worth pursuing. Shepherd’s site is not authorized by the provisional government, however, as required by the Criminal Code. The courts must decide whether using servers outside the country fall under their authority.