Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, province sign agreement for Sask. online gaming site

The new online gaming site, which will feature online casino games and sports betting, is expected to launch next year and will be run by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority.

Site to launch next year under agreement that is '1st of its kind not only in Saskatchewan, but Canada': FSIN

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and the province signed an amendment to the Gaming Framework Agreement on Thursday that establishes the legal framework for a new online gaming site in Saskatchewan. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

A new online gaming site is coming to Saskatchewan, after the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and the province of Saskatchewan signed an amendment to their Gaming Framework Agreement to establish the legal framework for the site.

The gaming site will feature online casino games and sports betting and is expected to launch next year.

The federation, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, and the province signed the amendment to the Gaming Framework Agreement on Thursday. That's the agreement that allows for the operation of casinos in the province through the non-profit Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, which will run the new website.

The gaming authority currently operates seven casinos in locations across the province, including Dakota Dunes Resort and Casino on Whitecap Dakota First Nation near Saskatoon, the Northern Lights Casino on the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in Prince Albert, and Gold Eagle Casino on the Mosquito First Nation in North Battleford.

The amendment establishes a 50/50 revenue split between the federation and the province.  

At a Thursday news conference, FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said the agreement is the "first of its kind not only in Saskatchewan, but Canada."

"A lot of work went into this, we have ventured on for the last many days, weeks, months and years to get to this point," Cameron said at the news conference, held at the First Nations University of Canada in Regina.

"This obviously is going to be a positive benefit to our 74 First Nations communities. Saskatchewan Gaming Authority is leading the way for gaming on First Nation country.… This is reconciliation at its finest." 

Cameron said the agreement will provide for future generations.

"I'm proud of the benefits that go back to the First Nations. There is a great demand for that revenue," said SIGA chair Chief Reginald Bellerose at the conference.  

Reginald Bellerose, chair of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, said the new site will have a positive impact on the financial self-reliance of First Nations in the province. (Submitted by Reginald Bellerose)

Bellerose said the agreement comes at a good time, as the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many communities. 

The gaming authority has also signed a letter of intent with the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation — the Crown corporation that operates Casino Regina and Casino Moose Jaw — that establishes the general terms under which the authority will operate the new site and SaskGaming will manage it.

Bellerose said the letter of intent will help better define their steps ahead.

The gaming site will complement the floor casino games at the existing nine casinos in the province. He said the site will be focused on the Saskatchewan market and create jobs in technical and digital roles.

Jim Reiter, the provincial minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, said he was pleased the agreement has been reached.

"For more than 25 years, the province and FSIN have been partners in casino gaming. The casinos have assisted First Nation people by creating careers and important business opportunities in the gaming sector," Reiter said.

"The new online gaming site being developed by SIGA will continue this tradition of partnership."

Half of the profits from the new venture will be distributed to First Nation communities, and will benefit economic, social development, justice, recreation and health programs, he said.

The other half will go to the province and be directed to priority areas like infrastructure and health.

"This new online gaming site will be a safe, regulated and secure platform that will fall under existing responsible gambling practices," said Don Morgan, the minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation. 

"This site will have measures and resources in place to support players and protect privacy, while also contributing to the social and economic well-being of Saskatchewan."