The project manager for a proposed casino on the Alberta side of Lloydminster questions the viability of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority’s (SIGA) plans for the city. But a vice-president for SIGA says the authority is confident in its project.
Member chiefs of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) voted Monday, Aug. 22 to approve plans for a SIGA casino in Lloydminster. However, the Frog Lake First Nation in Alberta has already presented plans for a much larger entertainment complex, which would include a WHL-sized arena, hotel, and conference centre.
In an interview with battlefordsNOW, Bruce Simms, project manager for the Lloydminster Regional Entertainment Complex, said stand-alone casinos simply don’t draw as much business as they used to.
“Our facility is quite a bit more and really, the crowd that comes in to a WHL game, that stays at our hotel, convention business, they’ll also be drawn to our casino. Our facility, it’s much more than just a casino box,” Simms said.
He said talks have taken place with the Western Hockey League’s commissioner and the group may look to relocate an existing franchise to play out of the proposed arena which he said would have at least 6,500 seats. It would also host concerts and other entertainment events. He said the 200-room hotel would be of the calibre of Delta or a similar chain.
Simms said the project would not be affected by the FSIN’s approval of SIGA’s plans. When asked what the chances of the complex construction proceeding were, he said it would be between 75 and 100 per cent.
“We are proceeding with our plans. The real question is, if we proceed, what will SIGA do? We have a much more in-depth proposal,” he replied. He doubted the city could support two casinos.
Pat Cook, SIGA’s vice-president of corporate affairs declined to comment on the Frog Lake proposal.
“I really don’t have a position on that, nor does SIGA right now. We really don’t know a whole lot about it. So we really can’t provide a comment on it,” she said. Cook explained the green light from the FSIN means SIGA is only now beginning the design process for its casino, which she said will ideally be open by the end of 2017.
“We haven’t got the actual plan for the casino developed yet, so that’s in the works,” she said. When asked about Simms’ comments about stand-alone casinos, Cook explained all of SIGA’s casinos are stand-alone projects, and the authority is confident in its plans for Lloydminster. She said it would be comparable in size to Swift Current’s Living Sky Casino.
Simms said other First Nations, including from outside Alberta, are looking to partner with Frog Lake which is located approximately 90 km north of Lloydminster.
The site of the proposed entertainment complex is along Highway 16 on the western edge of the city. Simms said in the future the larger site will also include retail and other commercial areas, office space, and even residential property.
Alberta’s government currently has a moratorium in place on new casino licences, but Simms believes an existing one could be acquired. He also said he’s not worried about low oil prices and the effect they’ve had on the area’s economy.
“If we were to break ground tomorrow it would be two years before we could open. And we’re not going to break ground tomorrow, we’re probably not going to break ground until next year at the earliest,” he explained. “So you’re looking at a two-year build after that, and we’re expecting oil prices to be back in the $60 range by then.”
Geoff Smith is battlefordsNOW's News Director, business and agriculture reporter. He can be reached at [email protected] or tweet him @smithco.
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