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Winnipeg Casino on the Cards for Manitoba First Nations

Most recently, Manitoba’s newly elected government announced it will take steps towards expanding gambling in the province. In addition to that, Premier Wab Kinew commented that the government is willing to consider a First Nations-run casino in Winnipeg while noting that the province is open to working on an economic reconciliation with tribes.

First Nations have had their sights set on a gambling property in the capital of the province for a while now, as the city is home to more than half of the province’s population. However, the previous NDP government rejected their requests as the city is already home to two provincially-run casinos and remarked that the market is already saturated enough.

Open to Proposals

In a recent interview, Mr. Kinew said that the new government currently does not have a specific proposal in mind from a First Nation, but noted that the province is open to work with tribes on economic reconciliation. He added that if it includes a future proposal from the Naawi-Oodena or other urban Indigenous economic development zone, the province will consider it.

But back in 2013, the then NDP government got First Nations frustrated over the launch of the Shark Club, a gaming venue with slot machines tables games and more in downtown Winnipeg. This led to a lawsuit from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and in 2018, the province announced a pause on any new gambling facilities.

However, this year, Kinew’s NDP government elected in October 2023, announced that it will be lifting the provision to suspend the gambling expansion in a mandate letter to the Crown-owned Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation. It said gambling expansion should be done in a targeted fashion to include supporting economic reconciliation and local economic development.

The news was well-received by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, as on Wednesday, Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said the assembly is optimistic that it would be able to sit down with the government and discuss moving forward. She also remarked that the majority of the population is in Winnipeg, making it an ideal location to set up a First Nations-operated casino.

Premier Kinew admitted he is open to proposals for a gambling amenity from anywhere, and noted it is not about what the government envisions, as it would be led by a proponent. He continued by saying whether it is Treaty 1 or a Western First Nation, they should come forward with the idea and show it to the province so that they can start discussions on the matter.

Manitoba Could Roll the Dice on iGaming Expansion

At the start of last year, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corporation also shared its very early plans to expand regulated online gambling in the province, as a way of generating more revenue. Currently, PlayNow is the only legal iGaming platform in the province, which was struggling due to the existence of grey market operators which continue to attract local bettors.

Source: Lambert Steve “Manitoba First Nations appear a step closer to gaining a casino in WinnipegCityNews Everywhere, December 13, 2023