Indigenous owned casino closures costing millions

‘That casino laid off 900 employees in the actual operation of the casino.’

While some businesses and recreational centres have already opened up across the country, casinos remain closed.

One of those with their doors shut is the River Cree Resort and Casino in Enoch Cree Nation, west of Edmonton.

The casino normally brings in millions of dollars for Enoch but has been sitting idle since March when the province closed non-essential businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enoch estimates that if the casino stays closed for six months, the reserve will lose $22 million in casino generated revenue.

Chief Billy Morin says it’s not just the loss of income that’s hurting the community, it’s also the loss of jobs.

“That casino laid off 900 employees in the actual operation of the casino. Three-hundred of them being Indigenous or Aboriginal and 200, about 200 of those our own band members in the whole operation,” Morin told APTN News. “And then back on the nation since that is our kind of bread and butter, our main source of income it was another additional 230 people approximately laid off because of this casino closure.

“So that’s been the biggest impact.”

It’s not just Enoch that is suffering.

There’s a section of the River Cree casino that donates approximately 10 per cent of its slot revenues to all other First Nations in Alberta, along with the other four Indigenous owned casinos, as part of their gaming agreement.

The agreement is called the First Nations Development Fund and helps 41 nations in Alberta annually with roughly $88 million to help address whatever each nation needs.

“That money too, to other First Nations, that goes to their food banks, that goes to their addictions that goes to anything they want in capital and roads and housing,” says Morin. “That money has been cut off as well and it’s pretty significant to all other First Nations in Alberta.”

Darrell is a proud member of Peguis First Nation in Manitoba. He is a graduate of the television program from Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton. He is returning to APTN after having completed an internship with us in 2018 and a brief stop as a reporter in B.C. in 2019.