The Nunavut government says it lacks the resources to crack down on illegal lotteries in the area.
The revelation came last week in the Nunavut legislature during an assembly-wide committee, where lawmakers are reviewing the government’s proposed operations and maintenance budget.
David Joanasie, secretary of community and government services, said any lotteries not registered or licensed with the department’s consumer affairs department are unenforceable under the area’s Lottery Act.
Arviat South MLA Joe Savikataaq urged Joanasie that illegal or unregistered lotteries are rife on social media in Nunavut.
“We all know there are a lot of them on Facebook, I don’t know if they’re lotteries I guess, but when you sell spots, you pay money and you have a chance to win,” said Savikataaq.
“If a person or organization doesn’t have a lottery license and they’re in a position where you pay money and you have a chance of winning, which I think is a lottery by definition, if they don’t have a license, the minister says it’s outside their competence and that it is free for everyone if they do not have a permit?”
Joanasie replied that only licensed and registered lotteries are enforceable.
“If they’re not on the list, they’re not under our jurisdiction,” Joanasie said.
However, illegal gambling is a violation of the Penal Code and the government routinely issues public notices reminding Nunavummiut of the need to obtain a license.
Joanasie said anyone who suspects illegal gambling should report it to the RCMP.
In a statement to CBC News, Nunavut’s RCMP said it has received only one complaint related to lotteries in 2022 and no charges have been filed.
The lottery law is being revised
At one point in the conversation, Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes, who chaired the meeting, asked why anyone would bother to get a permit.
Joanasie replied that lottery permits are also issued through the municipalities, so anyone wanting to rent a facility to hold a lottery would need a permit.
Joanasie also said the lottery law is under review and his department will try to modernize it to include other types of lotteries not covered by the law.
“There is no point in having a law if it is not enforced. You can’t close your eyes. If you choose not to follow your own law, change it,” Savikataaq said.
“If the department wants all gaming activities, all spots and bingos and so on to be unregulated and not require a license, then change the law accordingly.”
Joanasie said there will be a series of community consultations on this topic and they will look at what other jurisdictions are doing.
“I strongly encourage the minister to do something about lotteries, either change it so it’s all legal to do or keep the existing law, one of the two. It looks very bad when you get a law, but you can’t or don’t want to enforce it,’ Savikataaq concluded.
“I don’t know where the department is going, but whichever way the department is going, my recommendation and advice would be: get there quickly and do it so that Nunavummiut knows exactly what is legal and what is not legal in terms of gambling. .”