First nations are important aspects of Canadian life. They give rights to the aboriginal groups of Canada. One way these groups can use their rights is via legalized gambling. In the case of the Mississaugas Island, the first nation there has utilized these rights well. Led by a Chief, they have established a gambling parlor known as the Great Blue Heron. It has previously been operating as a charity casino. However, it will go commercial from September of this year.
Causes and Impact of this Move
The move to go commercial is not expected to affect their charitable donations. The decision to become a commercial enterprise was made after thorough negotiations. The negotiations with the Ontario Lottery and Gambling Corporation began in 2013. It was after it announced it would start to modernize gambling facilities in the province.
The OLG Corporation did not warm up the idea initially. There was fear that many casinos would eventually crop up on the first nation’s island. It would thus result in lower revenues due to saturation of the market. However, a deal did eventually sail through in July of this year. Despite this move, the first nation of Scugog intends to continue its charitable work as stressed by the chief.
He had to clarify this due to continued apprehension by the community about what would be the result of this move. Since the Great Blue Heron casino started operating about twenty years ago, it has given a lot to charity. The amount is more than 13 million dollars so far. All donations are channeled through the Baagwating Community Association.
The chief of the first nation Island says they are very proud of their achievements so far. In addition, he made it clear to the Ontario government that charitable work will go on. To make this possible, they have started the process of developing a committee for overseeing charitable work. The committee is going to replace the Baagwating Community Association.
The first nation’s role of overseeing activities at the casino will also be reduced. In addition, gaming models will change because of the modernization efforts. When the switch to a commercial entity happens on 8th September, so will its classification. It will be now classified as part of the ‘GTA Gambling Bundle’. The group will include other casinos such as Woodbine and Ajax. By 2018, OLG will reduce its oversight role and give the job to an organization of its choosing.
History of the Great Blue Heron
The GBH has operated as a hybrid entity throughout much of its existence. The first nation has mostly been allowed to manage the table games. It has managed to do this by collaborating with Casinos Austria. The slot machines have always been the preserve of the OLG.
As part of the management deal, Fantasy Gaming Entertainment Inc., Austria International Ltd., and Sonco Gaming Inc. have been involving in operating this casino. The information can be found on the website belonging to the casino.
About the New Deal Will
According to chief LaRocca, Casinos Austria will still have a role to play at the casino until 2018. It is at this time that OLG is expected to take over the management of the table games and slot machines. The island’s first nation will still play its role as the landlord and maintain its interests in the business. The chief wants to develop a strategy that will give the community economic development and financial security. The decision was reached via a vote. Fifty-four percent of all eligible voters participated, with all of them voting in favor of the decision.
Although there were many risks to be considered, everyone finally agreed it was the best decision. The new bundle under which the casino is classified is part of eight other bundles. The bundles are in fact zones. Some of them will have five casinos while others will have only three.
According to the OLG, they want to privatize management. The government’s role will be reduced to that of oversight. The process of finding private entities began in 2013. So far, the government has managed to create shortlist of five or three entities in each bundle. However, more specific details about the process of bundle selection were unavailable. It is expected that the final announcements will be made in 2017.
When the deals sail through, the private entities must take over all the labor contracts. As of now, The Great Blue Heron employs about 1,100 employees. All of them are unionized. When the service provider takes over, it must guarantee each employee a continuation of one year.
According to the OLG, they do not foresee the employment levels changing too much. Most of them will be maintained albeit with a few changes. It is because each private entity will be responsible for developing new business model if they want. Decisions to expand or contract the casino will also be theirs to make.
In addition, the OLG has classified this move will not affect the taxpayer. The decision was reached to allow the experts do what they do best. Meanwhile, the provincial government will continue to receive revenue.
The island’s first nation has had a desire to upgrade services at the casino for many years. However, they do not have any technical expertise in the area. When the new service provider takes over, he or she will have to hold serious discussions with the first nation.
The chief appreciates the decision that the OLG has made. He is appreciative of the efforts to recognize the first nation’s government as a partner. Although the change is going to be tough on some, it will lead to a brighter future eventually. For this new deal to work out, everyone needs to be positive about things. The first nation must work constructively with any private entity that is chosen. In addition, the private entity must ensure the community does not get a raw deal from all of this. Everyone has to understand that change always results in a bit of conflict.