Much fanfare surrounded the groundbreaking at an 18th Street North development late last week as further details were shared about a partnership between the City of Brandon and Gambler First Nation that would see a significant development on 18th Street North that would include a hotel, entertainment centre, gas bar, convenience store and other commercial property. Having been at the event on Friday and seen the emotion on the faces of those that spoke and so many others in attendance I can attest to how important of a partnership this is to a lot of people both in the present and future.
As part of the ceremony a rendering (pictured above) was distributed of the buildings that are to make up the development, with labels pointing to a gas bar, convenience store, hotel, restaurant, anchor retail and office retail. A building located beside the hotel would in that rendering be unlabelled and presumed to be the entertainment centre referred to in a press release distributed at the ceremony as being part of the development.
The conversation around the development and it’s economic potential has at least temporarily taken a turn this week to seeking answers to questions that have come about after the City of Brandon Economic Development Office provided to media including the Brandon Sun a rendering of the development that clearly labelled said building beside the hotel to be a Gaming Centre. In response to a question regarding the difference Brandon Director of Economic Development Sandy Trudel advised me that the document had been an old rendering provided to those media outlets in error, though with the rendering’s contents seemingly having existed in some stakeholder’s mind at some point in the process and considering Brandon’s history with the topic of gaming facilities the questions have come fast and furious and the answers not what one would not yet call all-encompassing.
In an email received from Gambler First Nation Director of Economic Development Mik Cupial on Saturday I was advised that options are still being considered for the entertainment centre portion of the development with usage still not 100% defined and further news to come in the weeks ahead.
All of Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest, Brandon Director of Economic Development Sandy Trudel and Gambler First Nation Chief David Ledoux have reportedly told the Brandon Sun that there is not and has never been discussion about placing a casino at the site. As well a document posted online by the City of Brandon last year that answers questions about the partnership with Gambler First Nation also specifically states that a Casino (which includes table wagering games) is not a permitted use for the land. It does however make clear that an Amusement Parlour, which may include VLTs/gaming machines and a bingo hall, would be an acceptable usage of the land subject to provincial licensing.
In an additional story on the topic on Wednesday, the Brandon Sun has reported that via contact with a spokesperson for the Manitoba Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority there has been contact with Gambler First Nation about a potential VLT site. In reading that one could perhaps infer that the intent may be in something as small as a limited collection of VLTs as seen at other locations in Brandon and that the involvement of VLTs in the end concept for an entertainment centre may be minimal or even non existent. The known presence however of the early document labelling a sizeable structure as a Gaming Centre at the development combined with Sun reporting that Ledoux was quoted following Friday’s ceremony as saying that a “Gaming Centre” was to come after the “gas bar and two little outlets beside it” in the development however leads to questions.
In the spirit of “seek first to understand, then be understood” I feel it’s important in this process to ask questions and to learn what the plans in fact end up being for the entertainment centre portion of the development rather than assuming specific plans and forming any judgements of the figures or eventual commercial or government entities involved based on those assumed plans. However given the city’s history on the topic of large-scale gaming facilities it leads to questions that all members of the public will hopefully soon have answers to in order for discussion of plans for the development in the immediate Brandon area to be as grounded in fact as possible. Specifically how far back in the process was the old rendering a part of the conversation? Whose conversation was it part of? How did that person or people define Gaming Centre relative to what one would call a casino? Why was the idea of a Gaming Centre removed and when? Is or isn’t a Gaming Centre like that in the rendering still under consideration?
I suspect a lot of folks would love a win-win-win situation that benefits all, but until the public is involved as much as possible and until questions posed of representation are answered as clearly as possible it’s going to be hard for many to get that warm fuzzy feeling.
What do you think? What would you like further understanding of before being able to answer? The ongoing discussion on the partnership has been attached to this posting and benefits from as many thoughts as possible from all potential stakeholders.