Rolling the dice

By Geoff Lee

April 28, 2016 12:00 AM

Lloydminster one step closer to getting casino

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) is betting on Lloydminster’s approval of a new casino.
FSIN announced Wednesday it has been granted conditional approval for the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) to build and operate a new casino in Lloydminster.
The casino would be smaller than some other SIGA casinos with about four or five gaming tables and up to 250 machines according to Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) Minister Don McMorris, who gave it the thumbs up.
“There is that whole market on the Alberta side that it would be able to tap into,” he said. “That’s what makes it attractive.”
SIGA currently operates six casinos in the province, with the Lloydminster expansion needing several hurdles to clear before construction.
The project requires a community consultation plan, approval from the City of Lloydminster and FSIN Chiefs in Assembly on an amendment to the Gaming Framework Agreement.
“Moving forward, I am looking forward to doing business and making new friends and I think what’s good for SIGA is good for Lloydminster as well,” said Heather Bear, vice chief in charge of FSIN’s gaming portfolio.
“That’s what we’re working towards.”
McMorris said a construction startup would depend on Lloydminster and SIGA to determine what kind of consultation they want to go through.
“We’re saying we are in conditional agreement with it, but it needs to be a local decision that is made, so however long the process will take, I think it would be a matter of months not years,” he said.
Bear wouldn’t commit to a construction start date either, in order not to take the people of Lloydminster for granted. “We want to make sure that they are properly consulted,” she said.
She said once those consultations are complete, FSIN will be able to pin down a date.
“I am hopeful, we will have window of construction in the near future,” said Bear.
A casino, along with commercial development in Lloydminster, has been advocated by Little Pine First Nation. Bear said Little Pine would be the head lease holder for a casino along with Onion Lake as the main partners.
“These two chiefs Wayne Semaganis (Little Pine) and Wallace Fox (Onion Lake) have been working diligently out in the field in Lloydminster to ensure the project stays on track,” said Bear. “Little Pine of course, has a prime location that is suitable for a casino venture and expansion with SIGA.”
Last summer, the city approved the development of a retail gas outlet on land owned by Little Pine at the northeast corner of 40 Avenue and Highway 16.
No application to the city has been made yet for a casino at that site, but Lloydminster Mayor Rob Saunders said, “I think it ‘s good news and one of the next steps in process.
“It allows the Border Tribal Council and the Little Pine group to pursue the next steps in their economic development with their initiative in the city of Lloydminster.
“Further land development with anything else requires approval from city council,” said Saunders.
Little Pine applied to the federal government to convert the potential site to an urban reserve to allow for a casino.
Bear noted SIGA is in the business of casinos, but there are other opportunities and spinoffs because of the casino project.
“We are focusing on the casino end of it,” she stressed.
“The next step is we are looking at providing robust community consultation plan and, of course, SIGA has started their road map,” said Bear referring to prior work on a marketing and business plan.
“They’ve been ready for awhile – now it’s time to move forward in terms of the consultation plans being carried out to SLGA’s satisfaction.”
Bear said she was going to call Lloydminster Mayor Rob Saunders to congratulate the city of Lloydminster for being a potential site for their new casino expansion.
“We look forward to accommodating our schedule to make this a priority,” she added.
The casino development would follow the vision of FSIN’s first casino on White Bear First Nation to create employment for their people.
“It’s about partnership and employment for all our people,” said Bear.
She said the Lloydminster casino proposal is another huge opportunity for SIGA to expand and bring the expertise that First Nations have in terms of an industry that will be new to Lloydminster.

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