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First Nation Casinos: A Year In Review

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1997      v27 n01 p21  
SIGA Logo It has now been slightly more than one year since the first of the four First Nations-run casinos opened its doors. The Gold Eagle Casino in North Battleford officially opened on March 1, 1996. The Northern Lights Casino in Prince Albert followed close on its heels with a March 6 opening.

Since that time, the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) has opened the remaining two casinos. The Bear Claw Casino opened on the White Bear First Nation in November 1996 and the Painted Hand Casino opened in Yorkton in December 1996.

Over the course of a year, SIGA has provided direct employment to approximately 600 people in the four casinos. Aboriginal people account for 80 per cent of these positions.

Many of these positions are new career opportunities for Aboriginal people. The casinos have created new fields of employment in management, finance and the maintenance of the video lottery terminals, slot machines and computers. These positions have provided the employees with skills that will be useful in other markets.

Milton Tootoosis, Director of Marketing at SIGA, says that, most importantly, the employment has given Aboriginal employees better self-esteem.

Casino Patrons

Enthusiastic Supporters-Painted Hand Casino, Yorkton, Sask.

In addition to direct employment, SIGA maintains they are providing countless other employment opportunities in related industries. Most of these are tourism-related: transportation, accommodation and food and beverage. Tootoosis also points out the contribution that the casinos made to the construction industry and to areas such as interior design.

With a year now securely under its belt, SIGA is looking to expand its market. The provincial, inter-provincial and international customers are all being targeted. And, with the value of the American dollar, Canada and Canadian casinos look all the more appealing. However, Tootoosis is quick to state that SIGA will continue to work at maintaining its local customers. He believes that long-term success in both markets is to keep the direct approach. SIGA will continue to keep their casinos small and personal.

By doing so, SIGA is hoping to attract clientele using friendliness as a selling point. Tootoosis believes that SIGA's employees are doing a lot to improve the non-Aboriginal community's opinion of Aboriginal peoples.

All these efforts are paying off in terms of financial rewards. With continued hard work, the SIGA casinos could very well prove to be the jackpot for Saskatchewan First Nations.