A Cree idea to build a casino in Val d’Or sounds like a good way to create jobs and revenues, but its negative social impacts -like gambling addiction – can’t be ignored.
So said a range of Crees and non-Crees about the casino project proposed by CreeCo., which is now being discussed by the Cree leadership.
The project is being called a “charitable casino,” because profits would go to community projects in the Cree communities.
We couldn’t get details on how much the casino would cost, or how many jobs would be created.
One source who is close to the project estimated the jobs could number 60 to 120.
Four possible sites in Val d’Or are being studied, and a new building may go up to accommodate the facility.
“It’s not going to be a massive casino -nothing like Vegas,” said Jack Blacksmith, chairman of CreeCo., the Cree-owned company that would probably own the facility.
Blacksmith said the casino will likely be on fhe table in ongoing negotiations with the province on community-project funding.
The idea would require approval from the Quebec government and city of Val d’Or.
Val d’Or Mayor Ronald Tétreault could not be reached. But Blacksmith said, “The town is very much supporting the idea.”
Serge Maillé, Val d’Or’s industrial commissioner, likes the idea. “It should be explored,” he said. Maillé said a casino would create jobs and attract tourists at a time when the city’s unemployment rate has soared to almost 16 percent.
“Certainly, it would create jobs. At first glance, it could be interesting,” agreed Serge Maheux, an official at the Abitibi-Témiscamingue regional-development council.
Maheux tossed in a word of caution, however, saying the casino could hurt community groups in Val d’Or that raise funds from charity bingos. “Will the casino draw revenues from them?” he asked. He said the casino’s social impacts should be studied.
Deputy Grand Chief Matthew Mukash also had a few concerns. “We have to look at the impacts,” he said.
Mukash said Crees have to be consulted before the project goes ahead. “When something of this scale is going to happen, we have to get feedback from the people. You don’t just build something like that – that is controversial – without feedback.”
At the same time, Mukash said the potential revenues make the idea attractive. “We’re in a situation where there are all kinds of shortages,” he said.
Paul Gull, chief of Waswanipi, also said the social problems that come with casinos have to be addressed.
But he said the communities are hurting for funds and jobs. In Waswanipi, for example, the unemployment rate is 23 percent and rising, he said. Sixty more youth come onto the job market each year.
“We need to create 120 jobs in two years. How we do it is beyond me at the moment. We have trouble meeting all the requests for funding,” he said.
“I think charitable casinos will bring something back to the communities.”