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Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority

The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) operates Saskatchewan’s five First Nations casinos. Under the First Nations Gaming Act in 1995, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Inc. created the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority. SIGA has been incorporated under The Non-Profit Corporation Act of Saskatchewan, since 1996.

The Province of Saskatchewan, through the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA), regulates SIGA. SLGA is responsible for the approval of budgets, operating policies and procedures, expansion of services, etc.

SIGA’s gaming operations are a revenue source for the Provincial Treasury, Saskatchewan’s First Nations and for Community Development Corporations situated in five casino locations. The CDC’s distribute this money to charitable and not-for-profit community organizations. SIGA is responsible for the daily management and operation of accounting and auditing systems, the conduct of casino activities, the procurement and maintenance of gaming equipment and the casino’s game delivery, in addition to security and surveillance.

SIGA operates five properties: Bear Claw Casino (White Bear), Dakota Dunes Casino (Whitecap Dakota First Nation/Saskatoon), Gold Eagle Casino (North Battleford), Northern Lights Casino (Prince Albert) & Painted Hand Casino (Yorkton). SIGA will also expand into the Swift Current market (Living Sky Casino) in 2008.

SIGA has three lines of business including: slot machines, live games, ancillary services and entertainment.

With approximately 1,700 employees, SIGA casinos entertain over two million guests annually. SIGA is currently ranked in Saskatchewan’s top 40 companies with annual revenues of $130M and net profits of $48.8M. SIGA is also one of the largest employers in Saskatchewan and the largest employer of First Nations people in Saskatchewan.


First Nations have a long standing tradition of sporting events and games of chance. Gaming has been in a part of First Nations culture for hundreds of years. In fact, long before the advance of settlers to what is now Canada, there was a tradition of our people participating in games of chance, otherwise known as ‘Hand Games.’ These games were played initially to determine hunting grounds between different groups of people and then continued later as a form of recreation and enjoyment.

Traditional games such as Hand, Moccasin or Blanket Games have been played within every nation of Turtle Island. In present day society these games have been misrepresented as games of chance or gambling. Comparable are games that involve observation, strategy and intuitive skills. Comparable skills are learned in playing chess, cribbage or poker. The numerous hand games represent the importance that observation skill development had in the hunting and gathering communities.

The development of observation skill not only betters a players chance to win but enhances their skills and abilities to survive in nature; trap or hunt, gather foods, medicines and problem solving techniques. In many communities – while men (who usually played) games – other participants would sing supporting drum songs and provide support for the players. Elders and others would use the time to teach lessons.

  • 1993 (Feb. 19) – Many visitors, Chiefs, FSIN executive and staff and media, gathered at White Bear Reserve for the anticipated opening of the casino, however, the event was postponed due to a snowstorm in the United States which delayed the delivery of the equipment; card tables, slot machines and $40,000 worth of coins. The delay may yet allow a solution to be negotiated between the parties interested. In the meantime, Chief Shepherd has rescheduled the opening to February 26. Golf clubhouse opening.
  • 1993(Mar. 22) – About 4 a.m., RCMP sent members of its tactical team into the casino to shut it down. There were reports that 100 other Mounties guarded the highway and all access roads within the reserve. As well at least one helicopter and three semi-trailers were used in the two hour operation.” There was an immediate outcry by band members and others that the police had used excessive force in carrying out this operation. Chief Bernard Shepard said, “It shouldn’t have happened this way. We were honest and open with them and what they did was very unacceptable — you don’t go pointing rifles in people’s faces. We told them from the beginning we wanted to do this in a peaceful and orderly manner.”
  • Criminal Charges precipitate FSIN – Prov. Discussions
  • Judge concluded that actions and belief that the Criminal Code gaming provisions did not apply to their on reserve gaming activities was reasonable
  • Judge had doubts that each accused possessed the guilty intention or criminal intent
  • Appeal later abandoned because of the Agreement between the FSIN and the Province of Saskatchewan
  • 1994(Apr. 18) – Saskatoon Council Chambers “Quite frankly, I get a bit confused sometimes, ” said Chief Roland Crowe. … “We are criticized about welfare and we are criticized about unemployment and now we are being criticized for creating opportunities. If someone has a better solution than I have, I ask for that answer.”
  • 1994(June 17) – As part of an economic development plan, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) successfully negotiated the First Framework (Gaming) Agreement with the province of Saskatchewan. The 1994 Gaming agreement between FSIN and the Province of Saskatchewan pursuant to the FSIN Gaming Act established the First Nations Trust Fund between FSIN and the Saskatchewan Gaming Commission.

In typical spring fashion was interspersed with showers and sunshine. Alongside the Amphitheatre at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, the Sturgeon Lake Singers sheltered inside a tipi, happily making music as a gentle rain fell outside. Chief Crowe had a vision of First Nations people living in a province where they have jobs, decent living accommodation, pride in what they do and a feeling of ownership in the whole process. And that can begin to happen now, he says.

“As First Nations, we want to be part of a strong and vibrant economy, and to have an equal opportunity at a better life. We look forward to a continued sharing and working together.” said Chief Crowe.

  • 1995 (February 9) – The Gaming Agreement was approved by the Chiefs Legislative Assembly.
  • 1995(June 7) – The First Nations Gaming Act was passed. In both cases the consent from the Chiefs was unanimous. The foundation for a First Nations gaming industry was laid with the negotiation and acceptance of a gaming agreement with the province and a slot machine agreement with the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) and the Western Canada Lottery Corporation (WCLC). These two historic agreements combined, addressed the issues of jurisdiction, lotteries, casinos, Video lottery terminals and implementation and enforcement issues. The FSIN takes the position that the First Nations have the right to self government which is confirmed by the Treaties, which includes full authority over gaming. In relation to jurisdiction the FSIN and the Provincial Government agreed to work together and present proposals to the Federal government which will allow First Nations full jurisdiction over all forms of gaming on reserves. The gaming agreement also recognizes the authority of the First Nations to regulate Bingos, lotteries and other forms of gaming on-reserve. All proceeds from these undertakings will be exclusive to the First Nations charities or sponsoring government body.
  • 1995(November 24) – Clay Serby, minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, and Chief Blaine Favel, of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN), announced an operating agreement had been signed by the province and the FSIN, so that Indian-run casinos can begin operations Negotiations on the operating agreement have been under way since February, 1995, when an agreement in principle was reached between the government and the FSIN on casino development and operation. The agreement provided the FSIN with the opportunity to develop up to four community-scaled, Indian-run casinos, subject to market studies and community approval. The casinos are limited to a total number of 500 slot machines, equal to the number in the Regina casino which is expected to open early in the new year.

FSIN casinos can now start up in the communities of Yorkton, Prince Albert, North Battleford and at the White Bear reserve near Carlyle as soon as the FSIN is prepared to begin operations, and terms and conditions have been finalized. The operating agreement addresses the issues of management of slot machines and table games in the community-sized casinos. The agreement does not address the issue of related gaming activities on reserves.

Now that the operating agreement has been signed, draft terms and conditions for the FSIN casinos will be reviewed immediately by the FSIN and the Liquor and Gaming Authority. Once the document has been reviewed, the Authority will adopt the terms and conditions, and the casinos can begin operations immediately. Negotiations and consultation on the regulation of related gaming activities on reserves will continue over the next six months.

  • 1995 Gaming Framework Agreement

– 5 year agreement

– Development of First Nation Casinos (slot machines)

– Revenue Distribution (FNF)

– Establishment of an on-reserve Licensing Authority

– Full First Nations Jurisdiction discussions

  • 1996(January 11) – SIGA was then incorporated under The Non-Profit Corporation Act of Saskatchewan on, and is designated as a charitable corporation. The FSIN owns the only issued Class “A” Membership. Class “B” Memberships are held by the Tribal Councils and independent First Nations.
  • 1996(March 1) – SIGA opened it’s first of four five First Nations casinos in Saskatchewan in 1996. The Gold Eagle Casino was the first SIGA operated casino to open.
  • 1996(March 6) – Northern Lights Casino opened in Prince Albert
  • 1996(November 12) – The Bear Claw Casino opens on the White Bear First Nation Reserve employing 100 people. “The bottom line is unemployment on our reserve. If you look around, I think the proudest moment we’re looking at here is all these people in the white shirts that are working today. That’s what it’s all about.” White Bear First Nation Chief Bernie Shepherd.
  • 1996(December 14) – Yorkton’s Painted Hand Casino is the last of four casinos to be established in the province. The gaming facility opened its doors to the public on Saturday.
  • 2000– Amending Agreement & creation of the Community Development Corporations
  • 2000 (April 4) – The extension maintains the terms and conditions of the February 1995 Gaming Agreement, with some amendments, until December 31, 2000. The agreement between the province and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) provides the framework for all aspects of First Nations gaming in the province, including First Nations casinos and charity gaming on-reserve. The amendments to the gaming agreement confirm revenue-sharing arrangements from the First Nations casinos, establish and provide funding to new Community Development Corporations, and provide for more practical charity gaming licensing on reserve.
  • Community Development Corporations

– 25% of SIGA Casinos Net Profits

– EC Dev to annually review which non-host Tribal Councils and independent FN’s affiliation with each CDC

– Each CDC to have 9 members with Host TC controlling memberships

– Established to recognize success of each casino in the communities located

– Funding purposed by CDCs are established.

  • 2000 (November 15) – The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) takes action to make fundamental, wide-ranging changes at the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA).
  • Starting the process of recovering all public money misdirected through the mismanagement of SIGA.
  • Refer findings of the special audit to Saskatchewan Justice
  • Removing the gaming registrations of all SIGA board members who sat on the board during the period of April 1, 1999 to June 16, 2000 effectively ending their board membership
  • Strengthening & restructuring the SIGA board
  • The Acting Provincial Auditor released his special report into the financial operations of SIGA today. The audit was launched immediately following the discovery of unauthorized use of funds by SIGA’s CEO, and was a co-operative effort involving the Provincial Auditor’s Office, SLGA auditors and two independent auditing firms. In his report, the Auditor makes reference to minutes of the SIGA board. SLGA has issued a report in response to the Auditor’s comments.
  • 2001(March 28) – At the end of March, 2001, the government extended the gaming agreements for a four-month period on the basis of SIGA demonstrating good progress in implementing the directives issued by SLGA. Negotiations on new gaming agreements would only take place when SIGA achieved the significant progress benchmarks mandated by SLGA. The government and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) agreed to extend the gaming agreements governing the province’s First Nations casinos until July 31st, 2001.
  • 2001 (July 25) – Eight benchmarks for financial management and accountability have been met by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA). This allows negotiations to begin on new gaming agreements governing the province’s first nations casinos. SIGA’s achievement of significant progress also means the government’s moratorium on casino expansion, imposed in June, 2000, is no longer in effect.
  • 2002(June 12) – The government and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) have agreed to extend the gaming agreements governing the province’s First Nations casinos until July 31st, 2001.
  • 2002(April 25) – The provincial government and Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) agree on the main terms to be included in a new gaming agreement. An agreement in principle was signed by the Minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority Ron Osika, and FSIN Chief Perry Bellegarde at the FSIN’s Legislative Assembly in Saskatoon. The new 25-year agreement will include enhanced accountability provisions, an additional 250 gaming machines on a phased-in basis, a commitment to work with the FSIN regarding on-reserve gaming jurisdiction and a commitment to provide $1.5 million annually to fund problem gambling programs for First Nations people. The agreement will be reviewed every five years. The new agreement gave the FSIN exclusive rights to a casino in Saskatoon for the next three years. This means that only the FSIN can propose a casino for Saskatoon during this time.
  • 2002(June 11) -The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) and the Province of Saskatchewan executed the landmark twenty five year Gaming Framework Agreement. Under Part 2 of this Agreement, FSIN and Saskatchewan agreed to work together to develop and present to the Government of Canada proposals which would recognize First Nations full jurisdiction in relation to all forms of gaming on reserves, either through amendments to the Criminal Code or new federal legislation. The work includes developing discussion papers and options for consideration, as well as a strategy for taking forward proposals to the Government of Canada.

A First Nations Gaming Jurisdiction Committee, comprised of individuals representing the FSIN, and individuals representing the Province of Saskatchewan meet regularly to discuss the work on gaming jurisdiction and presently have prepared a number of documents that will assist in making the proposals to the Government of Canada.

At the same time of the signing of the 2002 Gaming Framework Agreement, Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) entered into a new Casino Operating Agreement and the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Licensing (SIGL) entered into a new gaming regulatory agreement with Saskatchewan Liquor & Gaming Authority. The regulatory agreement is designed to build regulatory capacity for SIGL, which will better prepare it to regulate all forms of gaming functions for First Nations in the future under First Nations jurisdiction.

Under the 2002 Gaming Framework Agreement between the FSIN and the provincial government, IGR will have exclusive authority to issue license to charities on designated First Nations to conduct and manage lottery schemes such as bingos, break-opens, raffles and SIGA table games.

– Licensing and regulatory body

– On-reserve gaming

  • 2003(March 25) – Acting Director of Public Prosecutions for Saskatchewan, Murray Brown, Q.C. announces that the RCMP investigation of some members of the board of directors and senior management of SIGA is concluded. Public Prosecutions conducted a review of the file and determined that there was no basis for a criminal prosecution.

Brown said that the review supported the findings of the RCMP investigation, which confirmed that there was financial mismanagement, as outlined in reports of both the Provincial Auditor and the special audit requested by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority in June 2000.The investigation looked at two areas.

The first was whether SIGA had been defrauded by the actions of its former CEO, or any other official or staff person. The investigation disclosed that Dutch Lerat did nothing to misrepresent or conceal his spending from the Board of Directors or SIGA employees, nor was there any evidence of other criminal misconduct. The second area of inquiry was whether the province had been defrauded by the actions of persons working for or connected with SIGA.

In this respect the investigation disclosed no evidence that anyone in the organization did anything to divert money from the government of Saskatchewan.

  • 2003-04 – SIGA generated $33.2 million – the highest net income recorded since SIGA’s inception in 1995.
  • 2004 (August 6) -The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) granted conditional approval for the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) to build and operate a new casino on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation south of Saskatoon.

Before the development of a new casino proceeds, the government and the FSIN must amend the 2002 Gaming Framework Agreement to allow for the establishment and operation of an additional casino. Amendments will include a provision to hold profits in trust that would normally flow to First Nations from the new casino in the event that outstanding accountability issues are not fully addressed by the time the Casino is operational.

The new casino, which will be located 27 kilometers south of Saskatoon on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation, will be SIGA’s fifth casino in Saskatchewan.

  • 2004(October 20) – The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) has been granted conditional approval for the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) to build and operate a new casino in the City of Swift Current. The approved casino will facilitate the development of a performing arts centre in the City of Swift Current. Residents of Swift Current voted in favour of a new casino during last fall’s municipal elections. The new casino will be SIGA’s sixth casino in Saskatchewan. Amendments to the GFA to allow the development of the Whitecap casino have been tentatively reached. They include an increase of $500,000 in problem gambling funding to the First Nations Addiction Rehabilitation Foundation. With this increase, Saskatchewan will spend $4.5 million annually on problem gambling prevention and treatment, the highest amount per capita in Canada.
  • 2007(April 20) – A ground-breaking ceremony held to officially launch construction of the multi-million dollar “Living Sky Casino” in Swift Current. The partners in the $35M project are Nekaneet First Nation, File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, the City of Swift Current, the province of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA). When completed, the casino will employ up to 200 full and part-time workers and will include a gaming floor with 200 slot machines, 10 live table games as well as a state of the art multi-function theatre facility, with theatre style seating for 600.
  • 2007 (July 4) – The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) announces record revenues of $130 million and profits of $48.8 million for the 2006-07 fiscal year. These are the highest revenues and profits achieved by SIGA in its 10 years of operation.
  • 2007 (August 10) – Dakota Dunes Casino opens on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation, south of Saskatoon and becomes SIGA’s 5th First Nations owned casino in Saskatchewan.
  • 2007(September 19) the Federation of the Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the Province agreed to amend the Gaming Framework Agreement (GFA). The amendments ratified at a Special Assembly today in Saskatoon mean First Nation communities will receive more casino revenues to improve the conditions of First Nations people.

The GFA revenue sharing formula will change so the First Nations Trust (FNT) will receive 50 per cent of the net profits from SIGA casinos to support economic development, health, education, culture and other First Nations initiatives, up from 37.5 per cent. Of the remaining revenue, 25 per cent will go to the Province’s General Revenue Fund, with the remaining 25 per cent going to Community Development Corporations (CDCs) to support First Nation and non- First Nation charities and organizations across the province.

“Gaming revenues benefit First Nations people throughout the province,” FSIN Chief Lawrence Joseph said. “This gaming agreement is a work in progress and our partnership with the province is important as we continue to work toward First Nations jurisdiction over gaming.”

Another change is an additional $250,000 in cost-shared funding for the First Nations Addictions Rehabilitation Foundation (FNARF) which provides funding for problem gambling awareness, prevention and treatment programs.

  • 2007(September 27) – A ground-breaking ceremony held to officially launch the construction phase of the new Painted Hand Casino in Yorkton. The $29M project is entirely funded by the First Nations of Saskatchewan with no municipal, provincial, or federal funding.

Stephen Shaheen
250-103C Packham Avenue
Saskatoon SK S7N 4K4