Saskatchewan casino COVID-19 closures impact Indigenous organizations

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan casino COVID-19 closures impact Indigenous organizations' Saskatchewan casino COVID-19 closures impact Indigenous organizations
WATCH: COVID-19-related casino closures begin Saturday in Saskatchewan and continues until at least mid-January, creating a financial impact on Indigenous organizations – Dec 17, 2020

For a Saskatchewan organization supporting Métis businesses, there are few guarantees beyond March 31, especially in light of casino closures due to COVID-19.

The Clarence Campeau Development Fund (CCDF) receives 100 per cent of its funding from casino revenue in Regina and Moose Jaw. The gaming facilities are set to close from Saturday until at least Jan. 15.

Read more: Saskatoon Tribal Council, partners thank province for support during coronavirus pandemic

“We like to joke that we take that money right of the VLTs and shoot it back into the provincial economy,” said Steve Danners, CCDF’s chief operating officer.

In the summer, the Saskatchewan government announced more than $43 million in grants to support Indigenous organizations that weren’t able to receive gaming revenue due to the spring shutdown. The First Nations Trust was allotted $36.6 million.

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CCDF received $1.6 million to continue its operations for the rest of the fiscal year.

Combined with repayments from its existing client base, CDF approved over $5.4 million in equity contributions to Métis businesses. The organization benefits endeavours including startups, acquisitions and expansions.

Read more: Struggling Indigenous businesses to receive extra $133M in federal COVID-19 aid

Danner said for every dollar CCDF lends to entrepreneurs, $15.31 comes back to the province in socioeconomic benefits

Despite “tenacious” and “determined” entrepreneurship, the pandemic is weighing on organizations like the CCDF.

“This business model is not sustainable,” Danners said. “We need all sectors of the province to recover. That includes casinos here.”

Though there have been no firm provincial government commitments beyond March 31, Danner described the government as “a true partner.”

The Saskatchewan government hasn’t made any decisions about further funding for Indigenous organizations reliant on gaming revenue, according to a statement from Jay Teneycke, spokesperson for the government relations ministry.

Read more: Saskatchewan restricting indoor gatherings to immediate household members

Officials are “monitoring closely to determine if financial assistance is required,” Teneycke said.

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The Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation, which oversees Casino Regina and Casino Moose Jaw, doesn’t have revenue projections for the minimum four-week shutdown. However, rules imposed in November show how precarious gaming revenue has been during the pandemic.

“The revenue loss from the most recent capacity restrictions … is approximately $2.3 million,” said Shanna Schulhauser, director of communications with the corporation.

In December 2019 and January 2020, the casinos made roughly $9.3 million, Schulhauser said.

The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA)’s seven casinos are also ordered to close. Reached via email, spokesperson Alanna Adamko declined to comment.

Click to play video: 'Holiday restrictions in Saskatchewan met with disappointment, understanding' Holiday restrictions in Saskatchewan met with disappointment, understanding
Holiday restrictions in Saskatchewan met with disappointment, understanding – Dec 15, 2020

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