JILLIAN AUSTIN/BRANDON SUN
Allan McLeod, president and CEO of Tribal Councils Investment Group, left, Frank Turner, chairman of TCIG’s board of directors, Brandon city manager Scott Hildebrand and city Coun. Jim McCrae (Meadows) attended the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs meeting Friday at South Beach Casino & Resort to discuss a potential casino in Brandon.
BROKENHEAD OJIBWAY NATION — The development of a casino in Brandon is still in its "infancy stage," but it was a major topic of discussion on Friday at an Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs meeting.
Brandon city Coun. Jim McCrae (Meadows) chats with Brokenhead Ojibway Nation Chief Jim Bear, right, and Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation Chief Jerry Primrose at South Beach Casino & Resort before the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs meeting on Friday.
(JILLIAN AUSTIN/BRANDON SUN)
Brandon city officials and members of Tribal Councils Investment Group were invited to the closed-door meeting, held at South Beach Casino & Resort on Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.
"It was a healthy exchange of ideas and thoughts," said city manager Scott Hildebrand. "It’s just another step in the process … so things went well."
Hildebrand said a casino development in Brandon is a positive idea, but there is still a lot of preliminary work to do.
"We need to take a look at it, we need to understand all the possibilities and make a decision from there that’s right for the city and the residents of Brandon," Hildebrand said.
AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said the main focus of the discussion was on how to create the most value out of the business partnerships they develop.
"Not just from a political table, but from our economic and our business tables as well," Nepinak said. "TCIG is certainly a successful corporation that’s been built by our people for our people, and in that regard, I think we all need to be proud of some of those accomplishments because the things that it touches turn into successes."
As far as a casino in Brandon, Nepinak said it’s too early to say "yes" or "no."
"We recognize right now that it’s very early in the process and therefore we reserve any endorsement of any kind, respecting the very early discussions that are happening," Nepinak said.
The AMC remains committed to the Spirit Sands Casino project near Carberry, however the project has yet to begin construction and the AMC has had difficulty securing financial backing.
Nepinak isn’t ruling out the possibility of developing both Spirit Sands and a Brandon casino down the road.
City Coun. Jim McCrae (Meadows) also attended the meeting and was feeling optimistic by the end of the day.
"My reason for wanting to be around is … if there’s going to be a casino come to or near Brandon, somehow we need to understand what’s going on, if we’re going to be accepting some of the responsibilities that go with such an operation," McCrae said. "We also want to see what opportunities there are for the citizens of Brandon to get in on some of the benefits too."
Last month, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst announced an "unprecedented partnership" between the City of Brandon and the Tribal Councils Investment Group, to examine the financial case for a casino development inside city limits.
TCIG is the business arm of seven Tribal Council groups representing 55 of Manitoba’s 64 First Nations bands. The group raised money for the establishment of the South Beach Casino project and its senior members also have experience with the Aseneskak Casino at the Opaskwayak Cree Nation near The Pas.
Allan McLeod, president and CEO of TCIG, said the meeting had "more positives than negatives."
"It was to talk about the pros and cons, and really the benefits of a casino and what impacts that it might have on other groups," McLeod said. "I think in terms of unity, the meeting was good. It was an opportunity to ask questions, and it really is just part of the due diligence and the process that has to take place for any investment to be successful."
McLeod said they will continue to work on their business plan over the next few months.
"We’re still in the preliminary stages of our plan," he said. "We’re cautiously optimistic that it makes sense, and our due diligence and business planning will confirm that."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 2, 2012