The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said Friday their mandate is to continue work on the Spirit Sands Casino project south of Carberry, but they will talk with the City of Brandon-Tribal Councils Investment Group partnership about their plans.
“We are going to be considering that given the TCIG is a corporate arm of the majority of the chiefs in Manitoba, we will have to sit down as an Assembly with the business corporation to figure out what the implications are of the current discussions between Brandon Mayor Shari Decter Hirst and TCIG,” Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said in a press release.
“We will need to make a determination from those discussions whether this is a plausible option. Of course, the Spirit Sands Casino project will be at the forefront of that discussion and remains the priority of the AMC.”
Nepinak added that “considerable efforts remain in place to secure the financing required” for the Spirit Sands Casino project.
Decter Hirst was aware of the AMC’s mandate and efforts, and having the AMC consider all of the options was “encouraging.”
“They sound open to discussing this and we look forward to meeting with them,” Decter Hirst said. “We knew their mandate was Spirit Sands and we are trying very hard to be respectful of that.”
On Thursday, Premier Greg Selinger said: “The original report said that one casino could be supported in the southwest region. That was the market analysis. That’s the issue that would have to be addressed.”
Decter Hirst noted decisions on the future of Spirit Sands Casino lies with the AMC and the Swan Lake First Nation.
“I wouldn’t presume to tread on their authority,” Decter Hirst said. “Obviously, we need a licence before we can contemplate the consequences of the establishment of a casino in Brandon, and we are miles away from that happening yet. Right now, we have everyone aware of our intent and everyone is telling us the process for dialogue. This is all very good and things are moving the way they are supposed to be moving.”
However, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Chief Vince Tacan said the last time they tried to move on a gaming development in Brandon, the community had spent more than $640,000 pursuing a casino and “we have nothing to show for it.”
“To me, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth in terms of what had happened with the province and our dealings on that,” Tacan said. “Sioux Valley is very much interested in putting up their own casino, and that’s our position. Maybe if we have to go to the courts to settle this issue, that’s what we’re going to have to do. I feel we’ve been unfairly treated.”
Sioux Valley Dakota Nation is not part of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs organization, which from a provincial level could cause problems.
“There is a process we follow on deciding whether we support any casino and that’s through the joint gaming table at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and that’s the only way we make decisions on casinos,” Selinger said on Thursday.
Tacan said they should be allowed to proceed with their own development because they already have a licence.
“When the vote failed in Brandon, we should have been allowed to proceed with the second option, which was the (RM of) Sifton site,” Tacan said. “We have all kinds of excuses from the province, mainly that we had run out of time, and meanwhile, how long has it been from the announcement of Spirit Sands? And you know, South Beach took forever to get going as well.”
Tacan said there’s another factor at play, where the Cree nations have a casino, the Ojibway bands have two casinos.
“The Dakotas have nothing, so I think there needs to be some fairness on the part of the province on how they handle these things,” Tacan said. “We can isolate some of the negative issues that arise from such an operation. Not just from a fairness perspective, but it makes sense to have it somewhere.”
Tacan supported the Spirit Sands project, and still does.
“It was tried in Brandon before and we spent $640,000 trying to get that passed and I don’t think I want to go down that road again,” Tacan said. “A vote had taken place (in Brandon) and I said I’d respect that.”
Brandon Chamber of Commerce president Cam Clark said a casino in the city, regardless of the location will bring benefits to the city’s business community.
“We are in favour of exploring a casino,” Clark said.
“We see it as an economic boost for the community and it has a number of potential spinoffs that will help the businesses. There are restaurants that will see business. There’s hoteliers, there’s additional spending, so retailers will see an influx of new money coming into the community when there’s a large group coming forward with structure like this.”
Clark added the chamber wants to be involved in the process and partner with the city to attract new business opportunities that could result from a new casino.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 12, 2012