Gambling regulators in Manitoba are analyzing a $1 million donation made by the South Beach First Nations Casino in 2009 to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Regulators want to determine if the donation was a political move by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to build influence with the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, and the Manitoba government.
The South Beach Casino is located on the Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation just south of Grand Beach, and is one of two First Nations casinos in the province. However, as part of the agreement with the provincial government, the AMC was prohibited from advertising the casino on TV, radio, billboards, or anything outside the South Beach Casino website. The agreement was recently amended to remove the prohibition on billboards.
The AMC used charitable donations to promote the South Beach Casino since 2008, of which over $2.5 million has been contributed to social causes. Some of the more popular donations include money for food banks, hospitals, community organizations, and even a one-time contribution to the Special Olympics in Manitoba.
But it is the $1 million donation to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights that stands out among the South Beach Casino activity. The Museum reportedly removed the word “genocide” from the records describing the history of First Nations people across Canada, which many regulators consider a political move by the AMC.
Furlon Barker, Chairman of South Beach Casino, says all donations made by casino revenues are made strictly by the casino without AMC input. He also says none of the donations should be considered as political payoffs.
“All that money comes from South Beach, not AMC. We did what we had to to make it a success.”
South Beach records indicate that 30 percent of all casino profits are put into a special trust fund for First Nations communities across Manitoba. The remaining 70 percent of profits are divided among the seven tribes that own the casino, which use the money to pay down expenses, provide the provincial government with a share of the slots and VLT revenue, as well as ensure charitable donations are made.
The relationship between South Beach and Manitoba’s gambling regulators remained very close over the years, but it is yet to be seen how the $1 million audit might affect the relationship.