The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) have proposed since 2013 to make a number of changes to its gaming laws in an effort to modernize the gambling industry in Ontario. The corporation has plans to release a new GTA gaming bundle that will comprise of eight new gaming zones or bundles. Each bundle will have between three to five casinos and the government plans to get the private sector involved in managing these casinos while the government oversees the industry.
These changes will impact the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation’s (MSIFN) Great Blue Heron Casino as OLG wants the charity casino to be transformed into a commercial gaming hall from this month. MSIFN had initially opposed OLG’s modernization proposal in 2013 stating that the introduction of more casinos in the market would cannibalize the industry but after on-going negotiations have accepted the changes.
The Great Blue Heron casino has operated for over twenty years and has donated more than $13.5 million in revenues to various charities and funds that work to develop the local community and surrounding neighborhoods. A number of charities and organizations that received financial help from the casino’s charitable arm, the Baagwating Community Association have been concerned over OLG’s changes as they fear that their financial donations could be stopped. However, Kelly LaRocca, chief of the MSIFN put these concerns to rest by committing to continue to support these charitable organizations.
In a statement, LaRocca said “We at MSIFN have been honoured to show our appreciation to the local and regional community by making such considerable donations. We are incredibly proud of our charitable work and I assure you it will not be ending with the upcoming changes to GBH. In our negotiations with the Government of Ontario, MSIFN made it clear that we value our role as good neighbors and citizens. We are in the process of developing an MSIFN committee to oversee charitable donations.”
OLG’s modernization campaign also brings with it a number of other changes. The Great Blue Heron casino has functioned in the past as a hybrid casino with MSIFN partnering with Casinos Austria to run table games at the casino while OLG manages the slot machine business. From 2018, OLG will take over both facets of the business after which Casinos Austria officials will exit the casino.
The Great Blue Heron casino is unionized and employs close to 1,100 employees. Both MSIFN and OLG will have to work closely in the coming months to ensure that the proposed changes and expansion plans go forward smoothly. Chief LaRocca admitted that while the proposed changes were hard to accept at first, she was happy that the government recognizes the tribe as a valuable partner and was confident that her community would have a bright future.