Industry Reports

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Ex-Chair Expansion Ideas Crashed into Frozen Gaming Field

Last week saw the unexpected ousting of Polly Craik from her position of Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Chair that was announced indirectly by the announcement of Christine Van Cauwenberghe’s addition to the board. Contemplating the departure, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister stated that this change of structure comes amid a debate surrounding Club Regent Casino expansion in which Mrs. Craik was involved.

The announcement itself was an indirect one, as Mrs. Craik departure was not mentioned officially. Later on, former Chair herself confirmed that she was ousted from the lottery corporation. She cited that this exit came as a result of different opinions expressed in relation to governance protocol. May 11th, 2019 was supposed to see her term as chair expire. She made her way into the lottery corporation of Manitoba in 2016 once the Progressive Conservatives gave green light to the government.

Manitoba Premier Contradicts Issued Information

Her official exit happened on February 13, but after questions were asked, the truth was revealed and her ousting attracted the attention of Manitoba residents, as well as the Opposition. According to the claims issued by Opposition leaders, her exit is a clear example of the Government’s influence on the lottery corporation and desire to have a say in its operation.

In response to these accusations, Premier Pallister stated that the actual reason for this departure was that there was a discrepancy between Mr. Craik’s ideas and the Government vision of the provincial gaming field. He also clarified that this is a situation involving a resignation rather than an ousting, as it is an important detail that should be noted. This directly contradicts Mrs. Craik’s version of the story.

The financial side of development is what led to the eventual resignation, as Mrs. Craik supported a gambling expansion in Winnipeg. Initial estimations issued in 2015 showed that such a move could cost some CA$30 million, triggered by the success of Club Regent Event Centre. According to the plans issued publicly, the expansion would have to feature a new boutique hotel tower featuring up to 150 rooms, as well as two new restaurants with as many as 250 seats that would be adjacent to the casino venue.

Manitoba’s Gaming Field Is on Pause

Almost four years ago this idea was first proposed as Winnipeg was aiming to attract more tourists to the area. The overall cost of this expansion project was supposed to be covered by the Crown corporation and the private sector. The Government recently reminded that spending would have to be reduced. Premier Pallister stated that he wants what is best for the province residents and for the time being expenses of this magnitude fail to classify as such.

This is not to say that the Government directly interfered with the corporation’s operation, but instead to clarify that there has been an ongoing discord. Randy Williams is going to be the new Board Chair. This development comes after the Government is reviewing the local gaming field and gaming revenues generated across the province. Better spending is eyed down the road, as projects are optimized. Recently a CA$75-million project aiming to relocate Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries main office was nixed.