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Indian online gambling and casinos – Mohawk – Kahnawake Gaming Commission

The 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed with hope that tribe-operated casinos would provide a steady source of income for Native American communities. The income genereated from these casinos would aid reservation economic development. Many tribal governments have seen great improvements in their ability to provide public services to their members, building schools, making infrastructural improvements, and shoring up the loss of native traditions. The casinos have changed the economic climate in and around the reservations. Of course, there have been positive changes as well as negative changes. The positive changes include young adults moving back to reservations, adult employment increasing by 26 percent, and a 14 percent decline in the number of working poor. In counties with or near a casino, the employment- to- population ratio has increased and mortality has declined. The negative changes include a 10 percent increase in auto thefts, larceny, violent crime, and bankruptcy in areas near a casino, and an increase in bankruptcies within 50 miles of a new casino. In 2006, Congress introduced legislation to amend the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to attempt to address some of the above concerns.
Vinje, David. L. 1996. Native American Economic Development on Selected Reservations: A Comparitive Analysis. American Journal of Economics and Sociology. 55 (4): 427-442.

In 1987, US recognizes the right for the native American tribal entities to operate casinos free of state regulation. In 1988 it was enacted the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), as an economical aid and a source of income.

The Indian gaming industry has grown from nearly $100 million in total revenues in its first year, to more than $22 billion annually; exceeding the combined gaming revenues of Las Vegas and Atlantic City.


The most recent Indian gaming statistics, provided by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), indicate that there are approximately 360 Indian gaming establishments in the United States. These casinos are operated by approximately 220 federally recognized tribes and offer Class I, Class II and Class III gaming opportunities (See IGRA) . The largest casino in the United States, Foxwoods Casino, is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and located in Mashantucket, Connecticut. Tribal casinos located in the eastern United States generated roughly $3.8 billion in FY02. Those located in the Central United States recorded gross revenues of approximately $5.9 billion, while those located in the Western United States generated close to $4.8 billion. Most of the revenues generated in the Indian gaming industry are from Indian casinos located in, or near, large metropolitan areas. Currently, 12% of Indian gaming establishments generate 65% of Indian gaming revenues. Indian gaming operations located in the populous areas of the West Coast (primarily California) represent the fastest growing sector of the Indian gaming industry. Currently there are 562 federally recognized tribes in the United States. The tribal gaming industry will continue to grow in the near term, as new casino and resort developments are built by tribes and America’s general passion for opportunities to gamble (Las Vegas, poker tours, Internet, etc.), continues to flourish. There are currently a number of lawsuits pending which challenge the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act on constitutional grounds (see e.g. Warren v. United States) (Wikipedia)

Mohegan Sun is a resort and casino located in the village of Uncasville in the town of Montville, Connecticut and is the world’s second largest casino.

About Mohawk:

Total population: 78,000+Regions with significant populations

  • Canada (Quebec, Ontario): 30,000
  • United States (New York): 20,000

Languages: English, Kanien’keha’ka, Other Iroquoian DialectsReligions: Christianity, Longhouse, Handsome Lake, other

Since the 1980s, Mohawk politics have been driven by factional disputes over gambling, land claims, traditional government jurisdiction, taxation, and the Indian Act. The elected chiefs and the controversial Warrior Society have encouraged gaming as a means of ensuring tribal self-sufficiency on the various reserves/reservations, while traditional chiefs have opposed gaming on moral grounds and out of fear of corruption and organized crime.

Mohawk Gambling Casinos

On October 15, 1993, Governor Mario Cuomo entered into the “Tribal-State Compact Between the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and the State of New York.” The compact purported to allow the Tribe to conduct gambling, including games such as baccarat, blackjack, craps and roulette, on the Akwesasne Reservation in Franklin County under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

The tribe is currently pursuing obtaining approval to own and operate a casino in Sullivan County, NY at Monticello Raceway. The U.S. Department of the Interior has so far approved of this action and is awaiting Governor Eliot Spitzer’s concurrence subject to the negotiation and approval of either an amendment to the current compact or a new compact and for the land to be taken into trust.

The Kahnawake Mohawk Territory (Kahnawá:ke) is an Indian reserve on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada, across from Montreal.

The Kahnawake Gaming Commission offers gambling licenses to Internet-based poker, casino, and sportsbook sites and has established Kahnawake as a substantial player in that business. Many sites are hosted and managed by Mohawk Internet Technologies (MIT), a local data center located within the territory. MIT is the closest and fastest source for “legally hosted” gambling websites for their North American players.

Both the Canadian and Quebec governments dispute the legality of Kahnawake’s gambling operations, but have not risked taking further action due to the harsh international repercussions that followed the Oka Crisis. The websites hosted within Kahnawake are the only privately owned gambling sites that have operated in continental North America without legal action being taken against them. (Wikipedia)

The US government calls it “Canada’s Problem”.

60 Percent of World’s Online Gambling Runs Through Mohawk Controlled Servers. Chad Hills, analyst for gambling research and policy at Focus on the Family Action, said the Internet gambling industry is “out of control,” and Canadian and American policymakers need to establish “clear policies or effective oversight for tribal gambling operations.”
“Actually, as these events have little, if anything to do with the Jurisdiction of the Mohawks of Kahnawake, it has not been an issue for us,” Chuck Barnett, Board of Supervisors for Mohawk Internet Technologies, told Gambling911.com this weekend. “My understanding is that these offices (Golden Palace) were located well into the City of Ville St. Laurent, a borough of Montreal. And it was the offices of CyberWorld Group (CWG) that were raided. This entity is not licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.”

Hartley Henderson from MajorWager.com says that gambling has always been of interest to some of the Mohawks, but many others have rejected it. In fact in the 1990s there was an internal struggle among the Mohawks on the Akwasasne reserve which straddles the Canadian and U.S. border over the issue of gambling. While many Mohawks at Akwasasne felt this could be a vibrant source of revenue, other Mohawks on that reserve were vehemently opposed. In fact the issue led to a bloody conflict. At Kahnawake, on the other hand, gambling was not allowed to develop into a similar struggle. Clearly the leaders at Kahnawake were hoping to raise money for the reserve by way of a land based casino and decided to use a democratic process to decide the issue. They put the issue to a referendum and the motion for a casino was defeated in 1994 by a 724 to 627 margin. The close vote was a sign to the leaders of Kahnawake that the residents didn’t necessarily have objections to revenue generation by way of gambling, they simply didn’t want a physical casino on the reserve and the resulting social issues that often arise from one. So in 1996, the KGC was given the directive to oversee all gambling projects on the reserve and the obvious direction was to develop a system to promote wagering via internet servers. By doing so, the much needed revenue would be generated for the reserve without the concerns the inhabitants had with regards to a physical casino on the land.

In 1998 the Mohawk Council created Mohawk Internet Technologies. MIT is solely owned and operated by the Mohawks themselves and is overseen by KGC.

The Mohawk Gaming Commission has issued 443 online gambling permits so far, according to Joe Delaronde, a member of the Kahnawake band council, and the jurisdiction has gained a well-deserved reputation for probity, CBC reports.

CBC recently reported a story claiming “Kahnawake’s resident cybercasino giant fined for illegal gambling,” but the story was misleading, says Hartley Henderson. While they claimed that Golden Palace, the largest cybercasino operating in Kahnawake, was fined for illegal gambling, the claim just wasn’t true. Cyber World Group was fined, but they are not the same as Golden Palace, and more importantly they were not operating at MIT. Instead, Cyber World Group had an office in St. Laurent which is on the island of Montreal and that is what they were fined for – operating in Quebec proper.

The Register says that Cyber World Group, the owner of GoldenPalace.com, in Canada this week pleaded guilty to charges of illegal gambling and agreed to a $2m fine.

“We don’t ask for anything. We tell them that this is our right to do this. And we’re doing it properly, we’re administering it properly — the world seems to think that we’re doing a good job, and we’re confident we’ll continue to do a good job. I’m not just making that up,” said Delaronde. “You go to any of the publications around the world about this and Kahnawake is well-respected. Its jurisdiction is unquestioned. The only place where there is a question is in [our] backyard.”


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