Hundreds attend casino sod turning

By Geoff Lee

June 15, 2017 12:00 AM

CASINO CEREMONY The Seekaskootch Drum Group from Onion Lake Cree Nation performed an honour song before the official sod turning ceremony for the groundbreaking at the site of the future Lloydminster Casino development on June 12. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO

Roughly 200 people attended a sod turning ceremony to mark the official groundbreaking for the Lloydminster casino development.
The beat of drums from the Seekaskootch drum group from Onion Lake Cree Nation brought energy to the moment at the future casino site at Highway 16 and 40 Ave.
The Border Tribal Council, the facility landlord, the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) and the casino operator, hosted the event at the nearly-finished site gas bar and convenience store on June 12.
“Today is the acknowledgement of the first step accomplished,” said Wayne Semaganis, chief of Little Pine First Nation and site developer and land owner.
Semaganis is “stoked”  by the benefits the project will bring to the development partners and to his own First Nation through SIGA’s revenue sharing formula.
“My community has a lot of needs, and certainly this is one way for me to attempt to address those needs,” he said. “Certainly there’s a responsibility on governments to help us address those needs, but there is nothing stopping us as leaders in our community to make sure that we do our share to bring those opportunities to members.”
Semaganis said the project has been about seven years in the making with multiple partners and politics to deal with to bring it to the shovel-ready stage.
“We’ve gotten past that, so we just look forward to success after success now,” he said.
The ceremony included the unveiling of a rendering of the casino and the phased Eagle Park West site development.
There is no official construction completion date for the casino, but Semaganis said he’s hoping for May 2018.
Chief Reginald Bellerose, board chair of SIGA, spoke to the key partnerships involved to bring the project closer to reality.
“First of all, I thank the chiefs of Saskatchewan and Chief Semaganis and Chief Wallace Fox (Onion Lake) and other chiefs that will comprise the Border Tribal Council, the City of Lloydminster, the Province of Saskatchewan, and Brad Wall and his cabinet,” he said.
“So there are a lot of approvals that are needed, that’s a key part of getting here today.”
Lloydminster MLA Colleen Young called it a great day for the Border Tribal Council and First Nations people, and for the City of Lloydminster and surrounding area.
“There’s been a lot of work done in the background for the last few years, and it’s great to see that this day has finally come and the opportunity is here for us to all work together,” she said.
Robert Merasty, second vice chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said, it is a credit to their First Nations leaders who have the vision to have the perseverance to achieve these kinds of things.
“We as First Nations people also want to play a role in other sectors of industry in oil and gas, in hospitality, in resources exploration,” he said.
He said the direct benefit of that is revenue generation, and at the end of the day, healthy families.
Bellerose couldn’t put a revenue target on the new casino, but noted SIGA made a net income of just under $81 million in the last fiscal year.
Fifty per cent of profits generated by SIGA’s six existing casinos are distributed to all First Nations in the province through a trust fund.
“It’s going to be very helpful, put it that way,” he said.
“When you are coming into a new market you want to be cautious with your forecast, and we have experts to do that.”
For Lloydminster, the project is expected to create about 140 jobs and support local businesses through service agreements, and attract tourism dollars to the community.
Twenty five per cent of the casino profit will be shared with a regional Community Development Corporation, with the remaining 25 per cent going into provincial general revenue.
The local CDC will provide funds for city services, non profit and charitable organizations.
“As you see, we are going to go through some expansion again,” said Mayor Gerald Aalbers.
“The city always appreciates growth; this is economic growth that is going to come to the city.”
He said there will be construction jobs and permanent working jobs.
“I’m excited, the city is excited; we are looking forward to this day,” he said.

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