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UPDATED: Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs signs contract for casino at Carberry

An artist's drawing of the original Spirit Sands Casino project.

FILE Enlarge Image

An artist's drawing of the original Spirit Sands Casino project.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) announced Thursday morning that Hemisphere Gaming Inc. will develop and manage the Spirit Sands Casino at Carberry, with construction expected to start next spring.

"Hemisphere Gaming has a solid track record managing the very successful South Beach Casino," said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak in a release. "Furthermore, Hemisphere’s management team has developed solid relationships with the AMC and First Nations since South Beach opened its doors in 2005."

"As the Chair of AMC’s Gaming Committee, I am very pleased Hemisphere Gaming Inc. has signed on to manage such an important aspect of our organization that will no doubt lead to benefits for all of our First Nations," Fisher River Chief David Crate said.  "Benefits that could improve the infrastructure in our communities but also all aspects of lives for our people," added Chief Crate.

"We are delighted to be entrusted with bringing the Spirit Sands project to fruition," said Hemisphere president Ali Alizadeh. "We are confident we can deliver an exciting destination casino that will benefit not just the First Nations owners, but also the Carberry area."

Hemisphere Gaming will finance, develop and manage the Spirit Sands project. Initial construction will consist of a casino with up to 450 slot machines and up to 12 table games.

"If and when there is market support, we will look at expanding Spirit Sands," said the Grand Chief. "Building to existing demand has proven a successful business model at South Beach Casino & Resort, which has expanded four times since it opened seven years ago."

Once fully operational in late 2013, Spirit Sands will employ approximately 150 people. It will be located on the Swan Lake First Nation and all 63 Manitoba first nations will share equally in the profits generated by the casino.

The Spirit Sands Casino will be located south of Carberry on Highway 5. That's in the area of the curves at the bottom of the photo.

Enlarge Image

The Spirit Sands Casino will be located south of Carberry on Highway 5. That's in the area of the curves at the bottom of the photo. (FILE)

The Spirit Sands Casino project has been in the works for years, and was originally supposed to open in 2012. Construction has not yet begun. This photo was taken at the sod-turning in 2010, with Gaming Minister Dave Chomiak at the podium.

Enlarge Image

The Spirit Sands Casino project has been in the works for years, and was originally supposed to open in 2012. Construction has not yet begun. This photo was taken at the sod-turning in 2010, with Gaming Minister Dave Chomiak at the podium. (FILE)

The Spirit Sands Casino project has been in the works for years, and was originally supposed to open in 2012. Construction never bagan, dspite a sod-turning taking place in September 2010.

Last May, the City of Brandon partnered with a First Nations business group to examine the financial case for a casino development inside city limits.

Through what the city called an "unprecedented partnership," the agreement in principle paired the Tribal Councils Investment Group — the business arm of seven Tribal Council groups representing 55 of Manitoba’s 61 First Nations bands — and the municipal government with the intent of building a casino on city-owned land.

However, as recently as September, Premier Greg Selinger said he backed the Spirit Sands Casino project at the Swan Lake First Nation.

"I’d like to see a solution where everyone buys into a consensus on it and right now that is Swan Lake," Selinger told the Brandon Sun.

Selinger said he would not intervene on the casino file, as the government has a partnership with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

The TCIG has said a casino in Brandon could compete alongside the Spirit Sands Casino, adding the South Beach casino development northeast of Winnipeg exceeded revenue projections even as it competed with two large casinos in Winnipeg.

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