The Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto made its highly-anticipated opening on June 20, 2023. But a First Nation community from Ontario claims that the newest and most extensive casino resort in Canada and one of the largest in North America is another move to shut down the tribal casino operations and thus threaten the existence of the indigenous community in Ontario, according to CTV News.

”Unfair Hand”:

A First Nation community reportedly said that the government led by Prime Minister Doug Ford ”has dealt an unfair hand” after the latest launch of the 33-acre Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto, located near the intersection of Highway 401 and Highway 427. The casino was temporarily integrated into the existing Woodbine Racetrack to kick-off on June 20, 2023 as one of the largest private developments in the country.

Largest Casino Resort in Canada:

As CTV National News reports, Chuck Keeling, the vice-president of Great Canadian Entertainment (GCE), confirmed that the resort will be the largest casino facility in Canada. The resort’s gaming floor reportedly features 145 table games, 4,800 slot machines, while the amenities include 10 restaurants, with a hotel and concert venue to be added soon.

As the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation (MSIFN) owns the Great Blue Heron Casino north of Toronto, Chief Kelly LaRocca reportedly claimed that the Ontario government has broken the terms of the agreement signed in 2016, with the proliferation of casino resorts across the province affecting the operations of Great Blue Heron Casino and consequently the existence of the indigenous people depending on the casino revenue. Mega casino are reportedly referred to by LaRocca as ”the existential threat.”

2016 Casino Deal Viability:

Speaking to the source, LaRocca said that the casino represents “the economic foundation and lifeblood of [the First Nation’s] community. It has brought us clean drinking water, enhanced health-care services and education.” As the tribe owns the casino, Great Canadian Entertainment and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) are in charge of the casino operation, under the First Nation’s 2016 deal with the government.

In 2016, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation reportedly signed the casino revenue-sharing deal with the Ontario government. According to CTV News, the agreement states:  “The Province and the First Nation intend that the Great Blue Heron continue to operate and be commercially viable.”

As three other casinos have been opened and operated by GCE and OLG in Ontario since that time, the latest mega casino opening incited Chief of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island to claim the Ontario government’s violation of the agreement. LaRocca reportedly said: “The Ford government have broken their word to our community. It’s hurting a lot of Indigenous people and we are going to have to take issue and fight against the cannibalization of gaming.”

GCE and OLG Deny Breech Allegations:

On the other hand, GCE vice-president Keeling reportedly disagreed with chief. “We absolutely understand and respect the chief’s position on this. All we can say is that we are trying to demonstrate our commitment to that property by investing tens of millions of dollars,” he reportedly told the source. OLG simultaneously noted that the company is reportedly committed to “ongoing discussions between OLG and its partners including existing Indigenous host communities” as far as the development of the Great Canadian Casino Resort is concerned.

Uneven Playing Field:

According to the source, LaRocca considers that the latest casino opening makes an uneven playing field. She added that her First Nation’s deal with the Ford government reportedly included that “the Great Blue Heron would be protected and have a protected area around it, where no new gaming could proliferate and that promise has been broken through the opening of the casino in Pickering.”

Tribe Seeking Discussions with Government:

Ontario’s Ministry of Finance reportedly said that “the Province does not have an agreement not to open any more new land based casinos. It does have a Revenue Sharing Agreement with MSIFN in respect of the Great Blue Heron Casino.” According to CTV New, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation are currently seeking discussions with the Province of Ontario and are reportedly ready to proceed with legal actions if no agreement is reached.