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Manitoba Chiefs sue state government for $870m

The

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Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) has filed an $870m lawsuit against the Government of Manitoba after alleging that the decision to approve the opening of the Shark Club Gaming Centre cost the First Nations millions of dollars in lost revenue.

In its filing, the AMC, AMC Secretariat Inc and the Sand Hills Casino Resort Limited Partnership claim that the decision by the government of the province and the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries board breached it’s agreed commitment to support the development of the First Nations gaming market by refusing to open a First Nations casino in Winnipeg.

A statement filed in the Court of Queen’s Bench states that this decision denied them access to “the only market in Manitoba where casinos can generate significant revenue.” It seeks $870m in damages along with the implementation of additional court orders aiming to increase the market opportunities available to the First Nations.

The AMC alleges that the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Board, which already owns two of the casinos in Winnipeg, have attempted to preserve their casinos share of the market. The claim states that: "[The government] kept the Winnipeg market for themselves and non-First Nation owners and relegated the First Nations to more remote areas in the province."

It also alleges that the government has increased the costs of equipment, denied loan guarantees extensions, has refused to meet with the AMC or the casino owners to discuss how to resolve the financial problems and has refused multiple requests to move the site to Winnipeg.

In a prepared statement reported by CBC News Manitoba, AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas called on the Manitoba government to step up to its obligations saying: "Gaming for First Nations in Manitoba is a part of our culture, and should be a meaningful tool for our economic development.”

“We engaged with the Government of Manitoba starting 20 years ago in a regime for First Nations to get licences for, own and benefit from what was supposed to be the next five casinos in the province. These casinos were supposed to be established in viable markets. We were supposed to become more financially sustainable as a result. This did not happen."

The claims related to a report commissioned in 1997, later adopted by the Manitoba government in 2000, in which it recommends that five First Nations-owned casinos be approved, providing them with a new revenue source to improve their immediate communities.

Dumas added: "These were commitments made by the provincial government over and over again. Those commitments were broken and we are unjustly paying the price. It is time for this government to step up and work with us to create a real solution. We hope they will. If they refuse, we'll continue to seek justice for this in the courts."


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