Fraser Institute Urges Policymakers To Aid First Nations’ Casino Efforts

The independent Canadian public policy think-tank Fraser Institute advises national policymakers to eliminate gaming industry oversight in order to help the First Nations produce more profits and raise living standards.

Three key changes have been described in a study entitled ‘Cartels and Casinos: First Nations’ Gaming in Canada’ that will enable First Nations to generate more industry revenue.

As First Nation communities open casinos near large cities and holiday resorts, their Community Well-Being scores increase rapidly, based on Statistics Canada ‘s income, jobs, education and housing results.

However, the study says that First Nation casinos have been held in rural areas by provincial gaming policies where they remain relatively small and contribute little to economic growth.

“In 1985, Parliament amended the Criminal Code to give the provinces jurisdiction over gambling,” the study’s executive summary begins.

“The provinces have used their new jurisdiction to create cartels for their own profit, in which they are either the owners of licensed casinos or take a large share of the profit. First Nations challenged the provinces in court but lost. Hence, they have had to fit into the cartel system and take leftovers—with a few exceptions, casinos located far from the main action.”

An update to the Criminal Code to exempt First Nation gaming from provincial control is among the main amendments listed, a step it indicates would pave the way for national legislation designed to maximise the contribution of gaming to the economic growth of the First Nation.

In addition, it also argues that the aforementioned “cartel” strategy should be discarded, as well as asserting that steps should be taken to allow greater access for First Nations to lucrative urban and resort markets.

Tom Flanagan, senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and author of Cartels and Casinos: First Nations’ Gaming in Canada, said: “Casinos with slot machines and table games are the most lucrative form of legalised gambling in Canada, yet due to provincial regulation, most First Nations see a relatively small percentage of gaming revenue.

“The provinces are unlikely to relinquish control of lucrative First Nations gaming without a fight, but if these communities can generate more revenue from this industry, they have an excellent chance of raising the living standards of their members.”