Manitoba Government Announces Plans To Explore Retail Casino Expansion

Written By Matthew Lomon on December 13, 2023
Manitoba flag marking its spot on a Canadian 3D map. The Manitoba government has announced plans to explore retail casino expansion

For years, a government-mandated pause prevented the province of Manitoba from expanding its gambling sector. Now, with a new leadership group calling the shots, The Keystone Province will explore the idea for the first time in five years.

On Tuesday, the newly-elected NDP government announced a series of wholesale changes aimed at improving Manitoba’s retail casino offering.

It started with a refresh of the board at Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, including at the top. Jeff Traeger, president of a local United Food and Commercial Workers union, will take over as chair. The next phase involved issuing the revamped board a mandate explaining that the half-decade pause on casino expansion is no longer in effect.

The provision was originally introduced by the former Progressive Conservative government in 2018.

Glen Simard, the minister overseeing Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, touched on the developments in a note to CTV News Winnipeg.

“Work collaboratively with stakeholders to lift the pause on gaming expansion in a targeted fashion to include supporting economic reconciliation and local economic development while maintaining (the Crown corporation’s) commitment to supporting the communities they serve,” Simard wrote.

Reconciliation with Indigenous people a key part of plan

The Manitoba government’s latest plan will also include an emphasis on reconciliation with Indigenous communities.

In 2013, First Nations leaders expressed frustration over the opening of the Shark Club, a 17,000-square-foot gambling, entertainment, and hospitality centre operated by True North Sports and Entertainment.

Prior to its launch, First Nations groups had previously sought to open a casino in Winnipeg. However, the government at the time denied the motion, arguing the Winnipeg market, with two government-run casinos, was already full.

In response, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs later filed a lawsuit against the government seeking monetary compensation. Specifically, the suit called for hundreds of millions in damages in what the assembly called lost revenue.

As it stands, the claim remains untested in court.

When asked if a First Nations casino in Winnipeg is part of the plan, Simard said it’s too early to say, but that the board will collaborate with stakeholders, “of which Indigenous communities are (part).”

Winnipeg casino strike possibly on the horizon

Earlier this month, news of a potential strike at a trio of Winnipeg casinos gained momentum when workers voted to authorize a strike before Christmas.

More than 750 Canadian casino workers voted nearly unanimously to green-light a strike if a new contract is not reached by Dec. 23. This includes employees from McPhillips Station Casino, Club Regent Casino and the Shark Club Casino in Winnipeg.

Those members work as dealers, cashiers, slot attendants, security, house/grounds, customer service representatives and skilled trades workers.

Unifor Local 144 is the labour union representing the group of casino staff.

Photo by PlayCanada
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Matthew Lomon

Matthew Lomon has been a contributor at Catena Media’s network of regional sites since July 2022. He first broke into covering the legal North American gambling industry with PlayCanada. Since then, Matthew's reporting has extended to PlayMichigan, PlayPennsylvania, and PlayIllinois. Based out of Toronto, Ontario, Matthew is an avid (bordering on fanatic) sports fan.

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