Snuneymuxw First Nation acquires Great Canadian’s Casino Nanaimo

As part of deal, xwsol'lexwel village site will be returned to First Nation

The Snuneymuxw First Nation will acquire B.C.’s Casio Nanaimo from Great Canadian Entertainment through its wholly owned Petroglyph Development Group Ltd.

Great Canadian announced on Monday that it has entered into a definitive agreement to sell the landmark Vancouver Island property, which it has solely owned since it opened in 1986.

The gaming and entertainment company’s board of directors unanimously approved the transaction, which remains subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals. Great Canadian will provide transition services to Petroglyph for up to two years post-closing.

As part of the deal, the land on which the casino stands, a part of the Snuneymuxw xwsol’lexwel village, will be returned to the First Nation upon closing. Petroglyph already has the majority ownership stake in the adjacent Courtyard by Marriott hotel on the site.

Great Canadian CEO Matt Anfinson told Canadian Gaming Business that there is “no better entity” to build on the casino’s legacy than Petroglyph and the Snuneymuxw First Nation.

“As the owner and operator of Casino Nanaimo since its inception in 1986, we have prided ourselves on playing an important role in the Nanaimo community by generating meaningful revenue for the City, employing local residents, and creating substantial economic impact. With the pending sale to Petroglyph, we can think of no better entity to build on Casino Nanaimo’s 38-year legacy, and we look forward to working with them on a successful closing and to ensure the transition is seamless for the Casino Nanaimo team, the property’s guests, and the community itself.”

Great Canadian Entertainment CEO Matt Anfinson

Snuneymuxw Chief Mike Wyse said the First Nation is, “committed to bringing Snuneymuxw’s local expertise to an established tradition of outstanding guest service and meaningful community contributions.

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

Ian Simpson, CEO of Petroglyph, said the acquisition will, “unlock unprecedented economic potential for Snuneymuxw and PDG, paving the way for transformative growth in Snuneymuxw’s economy and the profits that PDG returns to our Nation.”

Casino Nanaimo has over 400 slot machines, six live table games, electronic table games and a restaurant, according to Great Canadian.

The deal is the first major transaction since Pauline Alimchandani began work as Great Canadian’s new chief financial officer on March 31.

Great Canadian could benefit from Vancouver casino expansion

Great Canadian owns or operates two dozen casinos across Canada, spanning B.C., Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

In B.C., it also has Great Canadian Casino Vancouver (formerly under Hard Rock’s branding) and Hastings Racecourse and Casino in Vancouver under its umbrella, as well as three Elements Casino properties in Chilliwack, Surrey, and Victoria, a Chances Casino in each of Dawson Creek and Maple Ridge, and Richmond’s River Rock Casino Resort.

The casino at Hastings, along with Parq Casino Vancouver, could benefit from expansion before too long after Vancouver City Council voted to amend the moratorium on casino expansion to allow more gambling at the land-based gaming venues. Great Canadian Casino Vancouver is not included in that as it is actually located in nearby Coquitlam.

The British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) had requested that the policy be changed to allow more table games and slot machines to be added, emphasizing that the facilities have the capacity for increased operations and stressing that doing so would bring in more revenue for the city and local communities.

BCLC estimated in the report that expanding one or both of Parq or Hastings could increase the government’s annual slice by somewhere between $2.6 million to $5 million. It will work with the City of Vancouver and partners, including government and public health, on any potential proposals for gambling expansion at the venues.

The casino at Hastings currently has 446 slot machines from an allowance of 600 on a casino floor beneath the horse racing grandstands. It is uncertain how many more table games or slot machines any subsequent proposal would include.

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