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Edmonton’s Eagle River Seeks Bankruptcy Protection

The Alberta tribal casino, Eagle River (l.), majority-owned by the Alexis First Nation band of Indians, has been draining money and is unable to make good on its debts. Paragon is its partner in the venture.

Debts of 0 million versus assets of million

The Eagle River Casino near Edmonton, Alberta, co-owned by the Alexis First Nation and Las Vegas-based Paragon Gaming, hopes bankruptcy will allow it to continue operating while it restructures its debt.

CBC News reports that the casino owes about $100 million against assets of about $57 million. According to bankruptcy trustee PricewaterhouseCoopers, without intervention the casino would have exhausted it cash reserves by mid-February.

The bankruptcy documents show Paragon Canada Alexis, which manages the gaming hall, owes about $82 million to American private equity firm Silverpoint Finance. It also owes about $18 million to Diana Bennett, CEO and co-founder of Paragon.

Yale Belanger, associate professor of Native American Studies at the University of Lethbridge, thinks the casino will endure.

“I think that the casino will remain operational,” he said. “It will still provide employment internally.  But once again, the optics are bad. People will take a look at this and they may raise eyebrows at yet another First Nations operation that, in their minds, is not operating quite up to snuff.

“That could impact other communities, not only in terms of the revenues that perhaps flow to them from casinos that might take a bit of a hit, but in terms of investors coming into their communities and being willing to leave money behind in partnership arrangements,” Belanger said.

Jody Korchinski of the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission told CBC, “At this time, there is no impact on the gaming license which resides with the Alexis Casino Limited Partnership. The casino remains open to customers.”

The Eagle River Casino opened in January 2008.