COVID-19-related casino closures which are due to begin on boxing day in Saskatchewan and continue and last until at least mid-January are expected to take a heavy toll on many casino revenue-dependent indigenous groups in Canada.
A Saskatchewan organization supporting Métis businesses revealed that few guarantees had been put in place beyond March 31 as an air of uncertainty prevails.
The Clarence Campeau Development Fund (CCDF) makes 100 per cent of its funding through casino revenue alone in Regina and Moose Jaw.
"We like to joke that we take that money right off the VLTs and shoot it back into the provincial economy," said Steve Danners, CCDF's chief operating officer.
In the summer of 2020, the Saskatchewan government pledged over $43 million in grants to support indigenous organizations that found themselves without gaming revenue due to the government-mandated spring shutdown.
The First Nations Trust was assigned an amount of $36.6 million with CCDF receiving $1.6 million to maintain its operations for the remaining fiscal year.
The CCDF earmarked over $5.4 million in equity contributions to Métis businesses, combined with repayments from its existing client base. The organization supports benefits projects, including start-ups, acquisitions, and expansions.
Danners elaborated that for every dollar CCDF lends to entrepreneurs, $15.31 is the province's return in socioeconomic benefits.
"This business model is not sustainable," Danners said. "We need all sectors of the province to recover. That includes casinos here."
Although it has not made any concrete commitments beyond March 31, Danner said the government is "a true partner."
The Saskatchewan government has held off on any decisions regarding future funding for Indigenous organizations that depend on gaming revenue, according to Jay Teneycke, a spokesperson in the government relations ministry.
Teneycke related that officials are "monitoring closely to determine if financial assistance is required."
The Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation (SIGA) oversees Casino Regina and Casino Moose Jaw and cannot provide revenue projections for the mandated four-week shutdown. New regulations introduced in November exposed the perilous state of gaming revenue during the pandemic.
Shanna Schulhauser, the organization's director of communications, explained, "The revenue loss from the most recent capacity restrictions is approximately $2.3 million. In December 2019 and January 2020, the casinos made roughly $9.3 million."
SIGA's seven casinos have all been instructed to closed, a matter that spokesperson Alanna Adamko has declined to comment on at this time.