Vancouver Island-based First Nation buys Nanaimo Casino

Photo: Unsplash
Casino file photo.

A Vancouver Island First Nation says it’s hitting the jackpot as it purchases a casino, marking a “historic transaction” that looks to boost the group’s economy.

Great Canadian Entertainment has signed a definitive agreement to sell Casino Nanaimo to Petroglyph Developments Ltd., which is wholly owned by Snuneymuxw First Nation, according to an announcement this week.

“We are committed to bringing Snuneymuxw’s local expertise to an established tradition of outstanding guest service and meaningful community contributions,” says the Nation’s Chief, Mike Wyse, in a news release.

Ian Simpson, Petroglyph’s chief executive officer, adds that the acquisition “will unlock unprecedented economic potential for Snuneymuxw and PDG.”

Gaming and hospitality company Great Canadian has owned the Terminal Avenue casino since it opened in 1986, but following unanimous approval from its board of directors, the sale to Nanaimo-based Snuneymxw was made official.

It’s “a historic transaction for both parties,” reads the release.

“Petroglyph is a wholly owned corporation of the Snuneymuxw First Nation dedicated to realizing the economic potential of the Nation,” it says.

The transaction “remains subject to customary closing conditions as well as customary approvals by the regulatory authorities … Under the terms of the definitive agreement, the Company will provide transition services to Petroglyph for up to two years post-closing.”

It marks the Nation’s entry into B.C.’s casino industry, notes Wyse.

Inside the facility, visitors can find slots, live and electronic table games, a restaurant and venue rentals. The casino is adjacent to the new Courtyard Nanaimo Hotel, which Snuneymuxw invested in before it opened earlier this year.

“Honouring the decades of work by past Snuneymuxw Chiefs and Councils, we look forward to closing the definitive agreement and realizing our collective vision with the Great Canadian team,” the Chief said.

“This collaboration promises to bring significant benefits and substantial economic growth to our Nation and the local community.”

It also means land will be returned to Snuneymuxw.

“In addition to our pending acquisition of the business, we are honoured to announce the return of the associated land once closing is completed, a part of the Snuneymuxw xwsol’lexwel village,” noted Petroglyph’s president Erralyn Joseph.

Matt Anfinson, Great Canadian’s chief executive officer, says it’s an “exciting new chapter,” adding the company looks forward to working with Petroglyph.

The local casino generated $2.72 million in 2022/2023 for the City of Nanaimo to fund local initiatives, according to a BC Lottery Corporation impact report. It says there were more than 16,200 registered lottery players in the Harbour City when it collected its data.

Great Canadian, around since 1982, operates gaming, entertainment, hospitality and resort facilities in B.C., Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Snuneymuxw, meanwhile, is one of B.C.’s largest Nations, with approximately 2,000 people. They reside in the centre of Coast Salish territory on the Island’s eastern coast, with villages on the Fraser River and around the Gulf Islands.

The Casino Nanaimo purchase price was not revealed.

Ethan Morneau

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