For the first time in a while, Manitoba will be exploring the expansion of its gambling sector. The province’s newly elected NDP government has recently lifted a provision to halt new gaming operations set by the former Progressive Conservative government in 2018. It also announced some significant changes the Board of the state-run Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation.
MLL is a Crown-owned agency of the province, which delivers and sells liquor, gaming, and entertainment, all in a responsible fashion. It operates Club Regent Casino, McPhillips Station Casino, and PlayNow.com, the province’s VLT network. Meanwhile, the corporation also sells Western Canada Lottery Corporation products via our network of lottery retailers.
Gambling Expansion is Back on the Menu
Just recently, the local government made some changes to the MLL’s board. The new members include Jeff Traeger, president of a local United Food and Commercial Workers union, who will now serve as chair. It also issued a mandate letter to the board saying that a pause on new gambling facilities will be lifted while reconciliation with Indigenous people is also part of the plans.
Glen Simard, the minister responsible for the Crown agency commented plans feature working collaboratively with stakeholders to lift the pause on gaming expansion in a targeted fashion to include supporting economic reconciliation and local economic development. In the meantime, the idea is to maintain MLL’s commitment to support the communities they serve.
Previously, First Nations were disappointed with the province with the launch of the Shark Club in Winnipeg, operated by True North Sports and Entertainment. It debuted operations a decade ago and offers slot machines, table games, and more. First Nations also wanted to launch a casino in the city but their plans were rejected due to the existence of two government-run casinos.
After that, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs submitted a lawsuit against the government, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages over lost revenue. However, the statement of claim was not reviewed in court. But Mr. Simard explained that it is still too early to say if a First Nations casino in Winnipeg is part of the new gambling expansion plans.
Last year, MLL shared that it was looking to boost revenues after the chaotic 2020-21, which caused interruptions in its gambling operations, and hinted at online gambling expansion. Currently, the province’s sole regulated iGaming platform is PlayNow, but previous CEO Manny Atwal noted the website was facing severe competition from illegal offshore betting sites.
Potential Employee Strike on the Way
But in the meantime, MLL has another issue on its hands, as unionized casino employees voted in favour of going out on strike. Over 750 staff members at McPhillips Station Casino, Club Regent Casino and the Shark Club are unhappy with their employer. They can protest if the Crown corporation does not offer a fair contract until December 23, 2023.
Source: Lambert, Steve “Manitoba ends pause on new gambling operations, focuses on public alcohol sales” CTV News Winnipeg, December 13, 2023