The referendum on April 28th to decide whether a casino should or should not be built on Kahnawake lands has aroused much controversy in the Kahnawake community. A 300 strong petition requesting that the referendum be postponed so that the people would have more time to gather information about the proposed casino and its impact on the community was rejected by the Mohawk Council at a public meeting.
So the referendum went ahead as planned on the 28th of April and the Kahnawake community came out against the proposal to build a casino on its lands. The No vote won by a small majority even though the Mohawk Council that was in favour of the casino spent large amounts of money promoting the project (see article Protest against the Casino in Kahnawake).This was the third vote on the question of a casino on Kahnawake lands. In 1994 the No vote won with 51% and again in 2003, the Kahnawake community came out against the building of a casino winning the referendum with 53% of the votes. There has been tension following the refusal of the Mohawk Council to recognise the will of the people in these referenda. The Mohawk Council still went ahead after the two previous referenda and authorised the building of poker rooms and a bingo hall on Kahnawake lands.The Traditional Mohawk Council which is the Kahnawake Nation’s traditional government does not recognise the Mohawk council.
The Traditional Mohawk Council has strongly opposed the building of a casino on both political and social grounds. They claim that gambling goes against their culture and is also against their laws. On a social level opponents say that there are already problems within the Kahnawake community with drink, drugs, crime and gambling and that the building of a casino would have exasperated these problems.To the referendum question: “Do you approve the development of a community owned casino that would be regulated by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission?” 846 members of the Kahnawake community voted No to the casino project. This 50.72% No vote is the third No vote and now opponents to the casino hope that the situation regarding illegal gaming establishments such as the bingo hall and poker rooms authorised by the Mohawk Council will be looked into.