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Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations want consultation on COVID casino closures

Federation Chief Bobby Cameron said Indigenous communities benefit from revenue made at casinos operated by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority. Mark Taylor / The Canadian Press

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations is calling on the Saskatchewan government to consult with First Nations before shutting down casinos.

A new public health rule orders the closure of casinos and bingo halls starting Saturday until at least Jan. 15.

Read more: Saskatchewan casino COVID-19 closures impact Indigenous organizations

Health officials reported another 245 cases of COVID-19 on Friday and said two people who were 70 or older had died. The province’s death toll from the pandemic sits at 107.

Federation Chief Bobby Cameron said Indigenous communities benefit from revenue made at casinos operated by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority.

The organization operates seven casinos, which employ many First Nations people.

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Cameron said the casinos already have strict safety protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and their closures could have a lasting effect on communities.

Read more: Coronavirus: Saskatchewan restricting indoor gatherings to immediate household members

A gaming authority spokeswoman said its casinos will be following the public health order and closing this weekend.

Cameron said the casinos proposed operating at 12 per cent capacity, below the requirement for retailers and other businesses that are allowed to stay open.

“Other gaming machines like VLTs, which are hosted in Saskatchewan hotels, bars and restaurants, remain open. SIGA and the 1,000 employees who are going to be out of work simply seek a level playing field,” Cameron said in a statement.

The provincial government did not immediately respond.

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Saskatchewan casino COVID-19 closures impact Indigenous organizations – Dec 17, 2020

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