Indigenous Community Slams ‘Megacasino’ Opening In Ontario This Year

Written By C.J. Pierre on March 15, 2023
Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto

There is excitement surrounding the upcoming opening of the Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto. When the $1 billion facility opens later this year, it will be the largest Canada casino.

Many are thrilled about the potential financial implications of adding a Las Vegas-style destination to the list of Ontario casinos. However, some members of Ontario’s indigenous community are not happy.

Some are calling the project flat-out disrespectful. While the outrage won’t impact the project in any way, it could affect the working relationship between Canada’s gaming officials and the country’s indigenous people.

First Nation outraged by plans for new Megacasino in Toronto

The Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation did not hold back their frustration over the announcement of this new casino. In a press release, the MSIFN criticized the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and Great Canadian Entertainment. They argued that the province ignored negotiated agreements and had “disregard” for the MSIFN.

“We entered into our agreements with OLG and the government with a shared understanding that OLG and the government would act in good faith and in accordance with their Honor of the Crown obligations, and in particular their contractual obligations set out in the agreements,” said MSIFN’s chief Kelly LaRocca. “Once again, the government is acting without any engagement with MSIFN and is acting to disadvantage the Great Blue Heron Casino at MSIFN.”

GCE operates many Ontario government casinos, including Casino Woodbine in Toronto and the Great Blue Heron Casino at MSIFN. According to the MSIFN, they entered into agreements with the government and OLG in 2016. The goal was to ensure the Great Blue Heron Casino would be operated comparatively to other government casinos in the greater Toronto area.

The two sides will meet this summer to discuss ongoing gaming issues between the Ontario government and MSIFN. However, this has been a problem for years for some members of the MSIFN.

“We’ve been engaging with the government, OLG, and Great Canadian Entertainment on these issues for years, and finally we’ve reached the point of entering mediation in the coming months,” said chief LaRocca. “Once again, however, the Ford government chooses to implement its decisions and ask questions later. It’s utter disregard for our First Nation and the Honour of the Crown. We continue to focus our good faith efforts on the mediation and will brace for whatever comes next.”

Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke also upset with Ontario’s gambling industry

The MSIFN is not the first indigenous band to be upset about gaming in Ontario.

In November, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke launched a lawsuit to try to halt online gambling in the province.

Specifically, the MCK has requested the court declare that Ontario’s government does not “conduct and manage” its iGaming scheme. Importantly, this finding would leave Ontario in violation of s. 207(1)(a) of the Federal Criminal Code.

It also asks the court to quash the iGaming scheme for failing to adhere to the law. Alternatively, MCK requested an order declaring Ontario’s online gambling scheme “inoperative” or otherwise “without effect” for the same reason.

Robyn McNeill provided even more details on the case in a second story for PlayCanada.

The matter is now before the courts and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the Ontario Attorney General, iGaming Ontario and the OLG have all declined to comment.

What to expect from Canada’s biggest resort opening this year

The Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto will be located at the intersection of Highways 401 and 427. It’s being built on a 33-acre space adjacent to the Woodbine racetrack. The new entertainment destination is not too far from Toronto Pearson International Airport, the nation’s biggest airport.

The resort will feature a modern Las Vegas-style casino, a 400-room hotel, a 5,000-seat live entertainment venue and multiple on-site dining options. Also, the hotel will have many rooms overlooking Woodbine’s racetrack.

The existing Casino Woodbine will continue to operate as normal until Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto opens. Gaming at Casino Woodbine generates around $16 million annually for the city of Toronto. The new development will bring in around $26 million to $31 million per year. We should learn more about the property’s features and grand opening in the coming weeks.

Photo by Great Canadian Entertainment
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C.J. Pierre

C.J. Pierre is a Lead Writer at Play Canada. He has been covering news and sports for over a decade for both online and TV broadcasts. He was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN and is an alum of Minnesota State University: Moorhead. He recently dove into tribal casino and online gambling news. He also covered the launch of sports betting in Arizona. C.J. has experience as a reporter and videographer and has covered high school, college and professional sports throughout his career, most notably following Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Vikings and North Dakota State University football.

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