Nunavut's illegal lotteries are not enforceable, minister says
The Government of Nunavut says it doesn't have the means to clamp down on illegal lotteries in the territory.
The revelation came last week in the Nunavut Legislature during a committee of the whole meeting, where lawmakers are reviewing the government's proposed operations and maintenance budget.
Community and Government Services Minister David Joanasie said any lotteries that aren't registered or licensed with the department's consumer affairs division aren't enforceable under the territory's Lotteries Act.
Arviat South MLA Joe Savikataaq pressed Joanasie on the issue, saying illegal or unregistered lotteries are commonplace across social media in Nunavut.
"We all know that on Facebook that there is a lot of, I don't know if they're lotteries I guess, but selling spots and you pay money and get a chance to win," Savikataaq said.
"If a person or organization does not have a lottery licence and they hold a function where you pay money and you have a chance to win, which I think by definition is a lottery, if they're not licensed, is the minister stating that it's beyond their control and it's a free-for-all if they don't have a licence?"
Joanasie responded, saying only licensed and registered lotteries are enforceable.
"When they're not listed, those don't fall within our jurisdiction," Joanasie said.
Illegal gambling is a Criminal Code offence, however, and the government routinely issues public service announcements to remind Nunavummiut of the need to obtain a licence.
Joanasie said anyone who suspects illegal gambling should report it to the RCMP.
In a statement to CBC News, the Nunavut RCMP said it received only one complaint in relation to lotteries in 2022, and no charges were laid.
Lotteries Act is under review
At one point in the exchange, Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes, who was chairing the meeting, asked why anyone would bother getting a licence.
Joanasie responded saying lottery licences are also issued through the municipalities, so anyone who would want to rent a facility to hold a lottery would need a licence.
Joanasie also said the Lotteries Act is under review, and his department will be looking to modernize it to encompass other types of lotteries not covered in the act.
"It's no point in having a law if it's not going to be enforced. You shouldn't turn a blind eye. If you're going to choose not to follow your own act, then change it," Savikataaq said.
"If the department wants all the game activity, all the spots and bingos and stuff to be not regulated and not have to get licensed, then change the act to that."
Joanasie said there will be a series of community consultations on the topic, and they'll look at what other jurisdictions are doing.
"I highly encourage the minister to do something about lotteries, either change it so it's all legal to do or enforce the law that's there, one of the two. It looks really bad when you have a law but can't or won't enforce it," Savikataaq said in closing.
"I don't know where the department is going, but whichever way the department is heading, my recommendation and advice would be: get there quick and get it done so that Nunavummiut know exactly what's legal and not legal in gambling terms."