The Lloydminster Casino project dealt a full house to stakeholders and residents for an information update at the Wildrose Pavilion.
The open house on Wednesday was hosted by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA), the casino operator, Border Tribal Council, a development partner and Little Pine First Nation, the land owner and development partner.
SIGA said it has received all required approvals with construction to proceed soon.
About 100 people in attendance were told soil tests were already being conducted at the project site at southeast corner of 40 Ave. and Highway 16 on the Saskatchewan side of the city.
“There is equipment right now out there, but that’s just to get the groundwork ready,” explained Little Pine First Nation chief Wayne Semaganis.
The framing is already up for a first phase gas bar being constructed by a First Nations contractor from Kansas with the 31,000 sq. ft. casino to be tendered.
“I want it to open in May,” Semaganis told the audience, but that’s not likely given the usual 14-16 months it took to build the previous six casinos operated by SIGA.
“That is what I’d like to see, but that’s my wish, but the reality is we don’t know what kind of weather we’re going to get this winter.”
Semaganis said he was excited to see the project underway following its approval by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) earlier this year.
“I was willing to bring my shovel out and start digging myself,” he joked.
Semaganis was asked if he is concerned about a planned casino announced by Frog Lake First Nation in July for the Alberta side of the city.
“That’s an Alberta gaming issue—you would have to talk to the Frog Lake chief,” he said.
Semagamis was applauded at the meeting by Bob Merasty, vice chief of FSIN for his casino vision.
For Semagamis, the potential revenue stream from the casino will help his band members become more self sufficient.
“Little Pine economically, we’ll be able to provide better housing; we’ll be able to address the social issues that face my community, the family violence, the addictions,” he said.
“We don’t get enough funding to address those things—we don’t have to ask for any funding now.
“We can do that ourselves with the revenue we generate.”
Casino profits flow to the Province of Saskatchewan with a 50 per share to a First Nations Trust.
Twenty five per cent funds Regional Community Development Corporations (CDC) in casino locations with 25 per cent going to provincial revenue coffers.
The benefits that Semagamis sees from the $20-25 million construction cost of the casino could help to ease public fears of increased gambling addictions and other social problems in the city.
“I am pretty sure Lloydminster knows the benefits that casinos bring because it’s all around us now,” said Semaganis.
“I meet with the mayor and council quite a bit and they have funding issues too, because governments are hurting all over.”
The CDC to be set up in Lloydminster will benefit local causes with casino funding.
The amount that will go into the Lloydminster CDC as a corporate entity is contingent on the performance of the property according to SIGA president and CEO, Zane Hansen.
Hansen said CDC funding would benefit both sides or our border city and that the Lloydminster casino will create about 140 jobs across the board.
Hansen said SIGA will also have career fairs as the project moves along and that most employees would be looking to make Lloydminster their long term home.
He too, downplayed any negativity a casino would bring to the community, citing SIGA’s 20 year track record in other communities.
“As an operator, we pay attention to all aspects of our business,” said Hansen.
“Go to the communities where we have been operating for 20 years—they have been very pleased to have us operating there.”
SIGA also invests about $1.2 million annually in scholarship programs and they support many local organizations and events where they operate.
Meanwhile, Hansen also noted SIGA is open to additional public consultations as the project moves forward.
“We’ll do information sessions on employment and other opportunities and what type of corporate partner we’ll be in the community,” he said.