City of Brandon officials and Tribal Councils Investment Group executives took casino talks to the next level this week when they met with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs in Headingley during their annual assembly.
While the talks were private and closed to the media, we were given the distinct impression that the AMC is at least interested in the construction of a casino complex within Brandon.
Following a vigorous debate among provincial chiefs, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst and the TCIG folks during a three-hour meeting on Thursday, AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak thought well enough of the idea to promise another full-day meeting in the near future.
Aboriginal casino development in this province is moving along at a snail’s pace, as delays and a difficulty acquiring financial backing have plagued the Spirit Sands development, which was supposed to be built on Swan Lake First Nation land near Carberry and completed sometime this year.
Given that fact, it’s not surprising then that the AMC leadership would be open to other considerations, a situation noted by Decter Hirst following the meeting.
“I was very pleased to hear so much eloquence about the importance of partnership and there seemed to be concern because it had been several years since AMC was given their five licences and only two have been built,” Decter Hirst told the Sun.
“They are just not moving forward at the pace they had initially hoped for and a sense that maybe what we need to do is see if there is merit in looking at a different business model that has Brandon at the table. Brandon and TCIG are saying it’s an idea that’s worth further discussion and obviously AMC feels the same way now.”
There is another reality at play here — there’s a great deal of money to be made in such a project and we believe Manitoba First Nations would be missing a huge opportunity if they ignored overtures from the Brandon delegation. And with a council and mayor in place that are ready to actually make a decision on their own — as they were elected to do — this casino project has a good chance of actually happening.
TCIG is in the business of making money, and when the city came to them with a proposal to take the bull by the horns and get involved in a casino development before it landed on Brandon’s front door, the executives must have had dollar signs in their eyes.
Assembly chiefs must have seen them, too, as TCIG president and CEO Allan McLeod said he was “encouraged” that a “significant majority” of people came down in support of a Brandon casino.
Decter Hirst said there was particular support for the Brandon-TCIG proposal from Peguis First Nation Chief Glenn Hudson. Several Peguis band members happen to live in this city, which goes a long way to explain his support.
We also note a significant little detail in what McLeod told the Brandon Sun, in that Swan Lake First Nation Chief Francine Meeches was being presented with “different opportunities that might be able to enhance and accelerate what she’s doing today.”
Does this finally harken the death knell of the Spirit Sands Casino, which by all appearances was floundering anyway? Perhaps Swan Lake would be given a slice of the casino’s profits as compensation?
This is all speculation of course. What, if any, agreements are made coming out of future talks will be between the AMC, the TCIG and the city.
But the city has at least cleared the first hurdle — the lines of communication are still open.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 23, 2012