03-04-2012, 08:14 PM
Two Star General
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Canadian lawmakers staying out of the online gambling game: expert
By Douglas Quan, Postmedia News March 4, 2012 |
The ongoing crackdown by American authorities against foreign operators of online gambling sites begs the question: why haven’t Canadian authorities done the same?
In Canada, only provincial governments are permitted to operate online gambling sites. Yet, there are an estimated 2,000 offshore gambling sites accessible in this country and Canadians are pouring huge amounts of money into them.
Experts say the law is murky and legal opinion is divided over whether these sites are breaking Canadian laws.
“For police authorities, it’s not their top priority,” said Stanley Sadinsky, a law professor emeritus at Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ont.
“They have much bigger fish to fry,” said Sadinsky, who developed a gambling law course.
In the past week, federal prosecutors in Maryland announced that Canadian Internet mogul Calvin Ayre — the founder of the popular Bodog online gaming company — and three of his associates, had been indicted on charges of running an illegal sports gambling business and conspiring to commit money laundering. Authorities also seized control of the bodog.com domain.
Last year, authorities in New York took similar action against the operators of the three offshore Internet poker sites: PokerStars; Full Tilt Poker; and Absolute Poker.
In this country, Canadians, according to industry estimates, are shelling out as much as $4 billion annually on offshore gambling sites, even though the Criminal Code states that only provinces may legally run lotteries or betting games on the Internet.
Yet, Canadian authorities have been reluctant to pursue charges against either the customers or operators of these sites.
“There hasn’t been a huge public outcry,” said Paul Burns, vice-president of the Canadian Gaming Association. “There’s a high level of acceptance of offshore operators in Canada.”
Part of the problem, some say, is the lack of clarity in Canadian laws. Some legal observers, including Sadinsky, take the position that the gambling transactions on these sites are occurring on Canadian soil and therefore contravene Canadian laws.
Others in the legal community, however, believe that if company servers are located offshore, then the transactions are taking place offshore and therefore, fall outside Canadian laws.
Even if there was a consensus that these sites were breaking Canadian laws, Sadinsky acknowledges law enforcement officials face practical challenges enforcing them.
Are police going to start knocking on people’s doors and looking at what they’re doing on their home computers?
“No,” he said.
Authorities could go after the operators, but they can’t arrest them until they’ve stepped foot in Canada, he added.
Burns said there’s frustration within the industry over this legal grey area. Either you enforce the law or create a framework to regulate these offshore sites, he said. Canada has so far chosen to do neither.
Burns said his association would welcome it if Canada’s lawmakers chose to legalize and regulate offshore sites. Such regulations would provide customers greater peace of mind and ensure transparency of rules and secure environments in which to play.
But Sadinsky said it’s not inconceivable that provinces will start pushing for greater enforcement action down the road.
Right now, only a handful of provinces — British Columbia, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces — provide some form of legal online gaming. Ontario is poised to follow suit.
As more provinces jump on board, and as they gain more leverage in the gambling market, they could decide they want to put a stop to offshore sites for competitive reasons, Sadinsky said.
“When economic interests begin to come into play, maybe that will be the greater incentive to deal with the offshore sites,” he said.
“Dollars may drive the decision in the end.”
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
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hands off is the best policy.
i wake up every day and thank the lord something akin to the chicago mafia
doesn't run canada.