Manitoba

New native-run VLT lounge won't have smoking, for now

Patrons at a First Nations-run gaming lounge that opened Friday near Winnipeg won't be able to smoke while playing video lottery terminals, while the band that runs the lounge seeks a federal law that could override the province's smoking ban.

Patrons at a First Nations-run gaming lounge that opened Friday near Winnipeg won't be able to smoke while playing video lottery terminals, while the band that runs the lounge seeks a federal law that could override the province's smoking ban.

The lounge, which includes 40 VLTs, is situated on land in Headingley, just west of Winnipeg, purchased by the Swan Lake First Nation.

The band originally planned to build a $50-million casino on the 10-hectare site, but those plans were defeated in a local referendum.

Chief Robert Daniels said Thursday that smoking will not be permitted in the lounge for now, in accordance with the Manitoba government's recent clampdown on smoking in First Nations gambling establishments.

In September, the Manitoba government announced that First Nations bars, casinos and gambling establishments would no longer be exempt from its provincewide smoking ban.

The change came after a Court of Queen's Bench justice struck down part of the Non-Smokers Health Protection Act that exempted First Nations reserves. The province said it plans to appeal the judge's decision.

The smoking ban now applies to all new and future First Nations VLT and liquor establishments, including the Swan Lake First Nation's new VLT lounge. Existing establishments have one year to comply with the smoking ban.

But Daniels added that he's applied to federal Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice's office for a smoking law that wouldtake precedence over the provincial smoking ban.

"We've agreed to notallow smoking on the premises, even though we've passed a bylaw ourselves," Daniels said.

"It's gone to Ottawa, to the minister's office. He'll either allow or disallow the bylaw within 40 days. So depending on if our bylaw is allowed to supersede the provincial laws, things could change as well."

Daniels said the band reserves the right as a First Nation to designate smoking areas onits lands.

The property was purchased as a part of a land treaty entitlement agreement with the federal government. The band will also open a gas station and convenience store on the site later in November. Daniels said it's just the beginning of development plans for the land.

"Well, it's just the first phase of a bigger development, I guess, for that property that was purchased under the treaty land entitlement," he said.

"Right now I think we're using less thanone-fifth of the 25 acres that we have here."

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