Canada: Manitoba premier says govt. willing to consider plans for more First Nations-run casinos

Manitoba’s premier Wab Kinew has said that he is open to the idea of launching more First Nations-run casinos in the Canadian province, but that he would not go all-in on the idea of opening one in Winnipeg.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Kinew said that even though there is no specific plan in front of him, the province is looking to “have a conversation” about ideas for new casinos as part of a pathway to economic reconciliation with indigenous people, reports CBC.

It’s not really what we envision, it would be led by a proponent,” the Premier said during a fiscal update. “Whether it’s Treaty One (Development Corporation) or a Westman First Nation, if we’re talking about that part of the province, they would have to come forward and say, ‘Here’s a plan,’ and then we’d take it from there.” 

Kinew did not speak about the possibility of a First Nation-run casino in Winnipeg. However, he did not rule it out either, noting the province is willing to listen to proposals. 

The Premier’s statement comes a day after the province expressed an interest in allowing the expansion of gambling, which was paused by the former Progressive Conservative (PC) government in 2018. 

The province has grown quite a bit since then, and so we took the decision that we can lift this pause while still ensuring that we’re being socially responsible with Liquor and Lotteries,” Kinew said.

Manitoba will gradually lift the pause to support “economic reconciliation and local economic development while maintaining Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries’ commitment to supporting the communities they serve,” according to part of a mandate letter retrieved by CBC, which was issued to the Crown corporation’s new board chair, Jeff Traeger, on Tuesday. 

Back in 2016, a faltering casino in The Pas owned by six Manitoba First Nations was denied a move to Winnipeg by the former PC government under Premier Brian Pallister.

Then in 2017, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs filed a lawsuit against the government alleging the decision to approve the Shark Club Gaming Centre in downtown Winnipeg, while refusing to open a First Nations-owned casino in the city, cost First Nations millions of dollars in lost revenue. The statement of claim has not been tested in court yet. 

Progressive Conservative MLA Obby Khan on Wednesday said that when it comes to growing revenue in the province, proposals like a gambling expansion “are all things you need to think about.” However, the Fort Whyte MLA said before his Opposition party can weigh in on the issue, the NDP needs to come forward with more details about what it would look like.