Manitoba May Allow Peguis Casino Relocation

The government of Manitoba, Canada may allow Peguis First Nation's Aseneskak Casino (l.) to move to tribal lands in Winnipeg. The position indicates a change of position by provincial officials who have long stated they would not allow a First Nations casino in or near Winnipeg that could compete with government-owned casinos.

The Manitoba, Canada government and Peguis First Nation reportedly have signed a memo of understanding stating, “The Manitoba government has agreed to consider providing its consent to the relocation of the Aseneskak Casino to Peguis lands or Peguis reserve lands located in Winnipeg in or near the Assiniboia Downs.” The memo acknowledges no relocation can take place without advance approval of the Manitoba government.

The agreement indicates a change of heart by the Manitoba government, which consistently has opposed any new casinos in or around Winnipeg that could compete with the two government-owned properties, McPhillips Street Station and Club Regent. First Nations believe that position prevents them from locating in or near the province’s two largest cities where new casinos could generate higher revenues. First Nations expressed its frustration when True North Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Winnipeg Jets, was allowed to open a mini-casino across from its downtown arena.

Former Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson confirmed Peguis had been talking to the First Nations that control Aseneskak about moving it to Winnipeg. He said he personally talked with Premier Greg Selinger and Dave Chomiak, the minister responsible for gaming, about moving Aseneskak to Winnipeg. “I certainly broached the idea two or three times with both Chomiak and Premier Selinge. They both said they would take it back and consider it and discuss it with their people,” Hudson said.

However, in a statement, a provincial spokesman said, “We can confirm that neither Minister Chomiak nor the premier has stated support for any such proposal” between Peguis and the Aseneskak. The spokesman noted the province recently signed a 20-year license agreement with Aseneskak without discussing relocation. He added neither the province nor the Manitoba-AMC First Nations gaming joint committee received any formal request for relocation.

A new casino is planned for Thompson on land Nisichawaysihk First Nation land. Also, last year the Sand Hills Casino in Carberry opened on land owned by Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation.

Recently the Manitoba Jockey Club and Peguis announced plans to redevelop the land around the racetrack if the provincial government allows it.