The City of Brandon considers itself a big winner from the Sand Hills Casino announcement, but significant tourism money from the project is still a wildcard.
Sandy Trudel, the city’s director of economic development, said it’s still unclear where the casino will draw visitors from, and whether Brandon will be a hub for those tourists.
"Until we fully understand what their operational model will look like and where they’re drawing their visitors from, it’s really difficult to determine whether it will be new income into the community from a tourism lens," Trudel said.
"We won’t know that until they get operating."
She said any casino’s draw is dependent upon the level of service it provides. If it’s basic, it’ll be less of a tourism draw.
When it is completed, the $20-million, 31,000-square-foot casino will house 350 slot machines, gaming tables, a restaurant and a bar — what right now is considered to be the first phase of a multi-phase project for Hemisphere Gaming, the company building the casino.
The project, near Highway 5 south of Carberry, is slated to open in 2014, and Trudel has no doubts about the spinoff for Brandon.
Before the casino swings open its doors, the benefit from construction work is the most obvious, including employment for construction workers, and money coming in for goods and services, Trudel said. A number of Brandon-based companies have already been awarded portions of the casino project.
However, Trudel said it’s premature to give a firm dollar figure on the benefit because it’s not known where the builders will purchase all their goods — whether it be through Brandon, elsewhere in Westman or other parts of Manitoba.
Once construction is over, Trudel anticipates the city will then have a steady drip of benefit once the doors open through ongoing operations and maintenance demands.
"It’s not unrealistic to expect a lot of those benefits to accrue to the local businesses in Brandon," Trudel said.
According to a Sand Hills Casino spokesperson, the casino will deal out 150 full-time jobs, including information technology, human resources, marketing, on-floor dealers, cashiers and restaurant servers.
And Trudel also pointed out Brandon’s underemployed or unemployed filling those positions would also increase the casino’s benefit to the city.
The Sand Hills Casino project, formerly known as the Spirit Sands Casino and Resort, will be the third First Nations-owned casino in the province. When it is finished, it will be the second casino that has been built by Hemisphere Gaming.
Trudel said the benefits for Brandon are "a given" when a project of this size happens anywhere in southwest Manitoba.
The casino will be built on Swan Lake First Nation and profits from Sand Hills will be shared by all Manitoba First Nations.