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Casino license a hurdle for Frog Lake proposal

A new arena and a second casino for the Lloydminster area may be a long time coming.

The two entertainment facilities were part of a major announcement put out in a press release by Frog Lake First Nation this past Monday. A hotel and convention centre were also listed as part of the development, which is meant to be put together as one build. The title of the entire project is the Lloydminster Regional Entertainment Complex Project (LRECP).

The proposal has not yet come before Lloydminster city council. In the release, it is stated that Frog Lake has been keeping city staff updated of developments with the project, for a “number of months”. The project is described in the release as a win-win for First Nations and other communities in the region, and states that profits from the venture will be re-invested back into the local community to support other projects, with airport expansion listed as an example.

The prospect of a Western Hockey League (WHL) franchise being brought to the community by the arena is also mentioned in the press release.

The release goes on to state that the purchase of a 140 acre site just west of the Lloydminster city limits has been finalized. It also states a feasibility study for the project was conducted by HVS Global Hospitality Services, and the architecture firm of Marshall Tittemore Architect are the designers of the complex.

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The release also details the economic impact of the project, with an estimated cost of $100,000,000. According to Bruce Simms, the project manager for the LRECP, Frog Lake is now the legal owner of the land slated for the development.

However, it appears as though the provincial authorities on both sides of the border who would have interest or authority on the project were unaware of the project until Monday’s announcement.

According to Pat Cook, the Vice President of Corporate Affairs for the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, said news of the project only came on Monday.

“We don’t have much information on a proposal other than what was submitted,” said Cook.

“We’ll continue to work, going forward, with our development. We’re happy we received city council approval to move forward.”

To the west, the Alberta Gaming and Liqour Commission (AGLC) was similarly unaware. According to AGLC spokesperson Holly Hunka, Frog Lake has not been in contact.

“The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission hasn’t had any discussions with the Frog Lake First Nation on this (project), or been formally approached about applying for a casino license,” said Hunka, in an emailed statement.

Hunka also said there are no plans to lift the current moratorium on any new casino licenses, and that AGLC is constantly examining the gaming marketplace.

As for the WHL, Commissioner Ron Robison said the league would be interested in exploring what the development might mean. Robison also said a meeting with Simms has been scheduled for Thursday, to get more information about the project.

However, Robison said the league did not see an expansion happening at the present time.

“We don’t envision expansion at this particular stage, so it would be an existing franchise that would have to re-locate to Lloydminster, and of course at this stage we are committed to the 22 markets where franchises are,” said Robison.

“We have many communities that have facilities which qualify for re-location consideration, so it would only be one centre that we would be considering, amongst others. We just want to know what the potential opportunities might be, and learn more about the project.”

In conversation with 106.1 The Goat Simms said the decision to announce the project on Monday was made out of a desire to “move forward.”

“We decided that it’s time,” said Simms.

“(The) Lloydminster area was aware of our project, that it was coming, and even though we haven’t gotten everything tied down as much as we like, it was time to let people know we were moving ahead.”

Simms said the earliest the project could break ground would be next spring or summer, and also said the current moratorium on casino licenses was factored into Frog Lake’s planning.

“We realize that there is a moratorium in place, we’re certainly aware of that, we already had discussions with the provincial government, and those will continue,” said Simms.

Simms also the construction of the complex would only go ahead as one build, despite the moratorium.

“It’s one build, and the different components of the facility, they’re built on business with each other,” said Simms.

“We need to do it as one build.”

Simms said Frog Lake plans to present the project to the council of the County of Vermilion River on July 26, with a date to be set for Lloydminster City Council. A formal application to the ALGC, who ultimately decides on the casino license, is planned for the fall of 2016. Simms said this move was taken to make sure there were no surprises on the municipal level.

“You don’t get any approvals from government for a casino until the municipalities on board,” said Simms.

“There has to be a demonstration of municipal support for your project. If you don’t have that, than there will be no license.”

This story will be updated as more official information becomes available.

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