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Alberta Tribes Eager for Casinos

28 December 2001

ALBERTA, Canada –– As reported by the Globe and Mail: "Natives are wagering on a better future as the Alberta government prepares to change gambling policy to allow construction of the province's first reserve casinos.

"Several aboriginal bands want a piece of the lucrative gambling industry, which some view as a panacea for high unemployment levels and poor conditions on reserves.

"…But critics say Alberta, which has the second-highest number of casinos in Canada, is moving too quickly without regard for the associated problems.

"…Roger Gibbins, president of the Canada West Foundation, an independent think tank that recently completed a three-year national study on gambling, said research shows aboriginals are particularly prone to negative effects, with higher than average user rates and problem gambling.

"…Gaming Minister Ron Stevens rejected the criticism and pointed out that aboriginals have long argued for changes to permit them to reap the advantages of casinos, which are the largest generators of gambling revenue.

"…By late January, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission expects to finalize long-awaited changes to gambling rules and the government plans to lift a moratorium on the development of new casinos. The move is expected to spark a construction boom in reserve and off-reserve casinos in Alberta, and could vault the province, which has 16 casinos, ahead of British Columbia which has 18.

"Several of Alberta's 46 native bands are considering casinos, and officials expect as many as four to put forward applications in the first few months. However, some are reluctant to discuss their intentions…"

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