First Nations groups in Canada’s Manitoba province are planning to take the legal route in order to overcome the local government’s objections to opening an indigenous-run gaming facility in the capital city of Winnipeg.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said that it was unfair to be kept out of a lucrative gaming market.
In a statement, Derek Nepinak said
Winnipeg is the gaming market in Manitoba and for us to be shoved aside and kept out of the prime gaming market is unjust. It's in bad faith and we aren't going to stand for that. We are upping the stakes by looking at our legal options and moving from there
Nepinak made the remarks after First Nations chiefs across Manitoba met to discuss the gaming options available in the province. The decision comes after Peguis First Nation's chief Glenn Hudson renewed an agreement with Aseneskak Company Inc, a First Nations company that operates the Aseneskak Casino near the Pas. The partnership could involve relocating its struggling casino from Opaskwayak Cree Nation to Winnipeg.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister had rejected the idea of a new casino in the city when the relocation was first proposed last year. Citing a 2016 Gaming Market Study, Pallister said that the city’s casino market was oversaturated. Hudson has countered Pallister’s position pointing out to a market study carried out by Peguis in 2014 that proves that the market had the capacity for one more casino.
In a recent statement, Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said that any new casino proposal would need to be backed by market analysis and a viable business plan. She said that so far no application or proposal had been received regarding a casino at Assiniboia Downs. Peguis has an ongoing relationship with the Manitoba Jockey Club, the group that owns Assiniboia Downs, arising from a 2013 agreement to develop a large urban reserve that would feature a hotel, retail operations and a conference centre. The master plan for Assiniboia Downs includes the option of including an on-site gaming facility but no further discussions have been held on the matter according to Assiniboia Downs CEO Darren Dunn.
The provincial government operates two casinos in Winnipeg which are the McPhillips Station Casino and Club Regent. A third facility, the Shark Club Gaming Centre is run by owners of ice hockey team Winnipeg Jets, True North Sports & Entertainment. Nepinak said that the current gaming regime was skewed as the province’s role was both as a regulator and an operator.