Gamblers in Edmonton and its surrounding areas may have one less casino to place their bets before the end of February. The Eagle River Casino, on the Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation located northwest of the Alberta capital, is in bankruptcy court attempting to restructure its debts.
According to the casino’s own financial statements, there are more liabilities owed to creditors than there are assets at the gambling entertainment centre. The casino, along with the hotel and other onsite services are worth approximately $57 million, but operators owe up to $100 million.
Most of the liabilities are owed to a private equity firm, but there is also a sizeable debt owed to the CEO of Paragon Gaming – the Las Vegas gambling firm owns a 40 percent stake in Eagle River. All cash reserves will be depleted before the end of the Olympics unless a new debt repayment plan can be agreed to.
Eagle River holds a gambling license with the Alberta Gambling and Liquor Commission, though the casino was founded by First Nations peoples to create jobs on the reserve as well as to provide a popular tourist destination. Spokespeople for the AGLC say the bankruptcy meetings have no impact on the gambling license, and that “the casino remains open to customers” for the time being.
Yale Belanger, an associate professor with expertise in First Nations gaming, believes the casino will remain operational despite the court motion. However, he is concerned that it will impact how businesses are willing to invest in First Nations casinos and other ventures.
“People will take a look at this and they may raise eyebrows at yet another First Nations operation that in their minds is not operating quite up to snuff.”
The fallout from a defunct casino could potentially encourage the Alberta government to regulate an online casino similar to other provinces.