The project manager for a proposed casino on the Alberta side of Lloydminster is questioning the viability of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority’s (SIGA) plans for the city.
Member chiefs of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) voted Monday to approve plans for a SIGA casino in the border city.
However, 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.
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 is expected to have at least 6,500 seats.
The facility would also host concerts and other entertainment events. He said the 200-room hotel would be at the calibre of Delta or a similar chain.
Simms noted the project would not be affected by the FSIN’s approval of SIGA’s plans.
“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 said, adding he doubted the city could support two casinos.
Pat Cook, vice-president of corporate affairs for SIGA, 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,” Cook said.
She said the green light from the FSIN means SIGA is only now beginning the design process for its casino, which 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 regarding stand-alone casinos, Cook said that’s the style for all SIGA casino 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.
As for Frog Lake, Simms noted other First Nations, including from outside Alberta, are looking to partner with the community; which is located around 90 kilometres 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 said.
“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.”