In the span of just a few weeks, The Pas, a town in Manitoba, Canada, has lost three of its major employers, the latest of which is a gaming venue. The Aseneskak Casino will likely close and be relocated closer to Winnipeg, according to an announcement on Friday by the venue’s operator.
The casino opened in 2002, employs 147 workers, and is located in Opaskwayak Cree Nation territory, which abuts The Pas. According to a spokesperson for the casino, operators will likely look to relocate to a larger market in the province, ideally at Assiniboia. The casino’s CEO, Suzanne Barbeau-Bracegirdle, said that the casino isn’t viable in its current location and that it will close in two years. She said, “The market just isn’t here. We have 600 game machines that we can use [but] we are presently using only 172. We are only using six table games and we have the capacity for 30,” as reported by CBC News. The casino’s CEO added, “We have to look at the economic benefit of the casino, which is a business that’s run by six First Nations. We want to make sure they get their investment.”
However, before the relocation can happen, the province must first approve the move in writing, according to Heather Stefanson, who is the minister responsible for the Manitoba Liquor and Gaming Authority. In an emailed statement to the news agency, Stefanson said, “Aseneskak Casino has a Gaming Agreement with the government of Manitoba and the Manitoba Liquor and Gaming Authority,” and, “The number, size and location of casinos are negotiated between First Nations and the provincial government.”
If the move is approved by the province, Barbeau-Bracegirdle is not sure how many of the casino’s employees will be out of a job. According to the CEO, the casino’s nearly 150 employees and staff, most of which are from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, have been invited by the company to relocate along with it and she hopes that some will do so.
Jim Scott, The Pas’ mayor, said that he hopes that the casino operator’s decision to relocate can be reversed so that some of the jobs in the northwestern Manitoba community of nearly 5,700 can be spared. He said, “I think there’s opportunity. There’s tourism opportunities we haven’t fully looked at,” according to the news agency. However, Barbeau-Bracegirdle isn’t optimistic and doesn’t hold out much hope that the casino will remain in its current location. She said the casino partners have been communicating with representatives of several potential sites not far from Winnipeg; most notably Peguis First Nation, which is currently trying to negotiate a partnership with the Manitoba Jockey Club, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.
The Aseneskak Casino is owned by a partnership of six First Nations: Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Chemawawin Cree Nation, Misipawistik Cree Nation, Mosakahiken Cree Nation, Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation and Sapotaweyak Cree Nation.