Sand Hills Casino Resort and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs have decided to sue the government of Manitoba. The Assembly have alleged that the Manitoba government has broken a promise to share the province of Winnipeg’s gambling income with the First Nations. A recent statement of claim filed at the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench states that the province has reneged on a deal that was held with the First Nations.
Under the deal, the state would have five land-based casinos operating in Manitoba before any expansions were made on casinos not belonging to First Nations. The claim notes that First Nations was shut out of the Winnipeg casino industry, while the province allowed Entertainment’s Shark Club and True North Sports into the market and also licensed an additional 500 VLTs for non-First Nations gambling venues in the province.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas noted that his Assembly engaged with the Manitoba government over twenty years ago in a regime for the First Nations to acquire licenses to own and benefit from the next five casinos operating in the province. According to Dumas, these casinos were supposed to be opened in ‘viable markets’ allowing First Nations to become more financially sustainable – but this did not happen. The AMC and Sand Hills Casino Resort are now suing the province and its Crown Corporation for a hefty $640 million in damages, along with an extra $248 million in aggravated damage.
The two bodies are also aiming to obtain an order to relocate the Sand Hills Casino to the region of Winnipeg. Back in 1997, the government promised Manitoba First Nations select priorities when it came to provincial casino gaming, according to the statement of claim. These policies were to provide for five First Nations-operated casinos in the province, before any other casinos were established in the region. Additionally, it was promised that First Nations would be allowed to earn revenues that would help to improve their economic hardships, as well as provide necessary services to their communities.
By 2000, two non-First Nations casinos had been established in Winnipeg, gaining the largest market share in Manitoba. First Nations was relegated to outer lying areas of the province, and even the Sand Hills Casino, established in 2014 near Carberry, struggled due to its location. Additionally, attempts from First Nations to access the Winnipeg market and relocate Sand Hills have been continuously denied.
Grand Chief Dumas noted that the aforementioned commitments were made to the AMC ‘over and over again’, but were broken – and now, his communities are paying the price. He has demanded that the government work alongside the AMC to create a ‘real solution’, warning that they will continue their court action if they refuse.