Two Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) Casinos are marking 26 years in business this month.

In March of 1996 both The Northern Lights Casino in Prince Albert and the Gold Eagle Casino in North Battleford opened their doors to the public.

Kelly Atcheynum, the current general manager for the Gold Eagle Casino said they have seen quite a bit of growth since opening their doors at what used to be a Marks Work Warehouse which was connected to a Bonanza restaurant.

“We originally started with VLT machines after the year anniversary we got our slot machines and the Bonanza was purchased and we converted (it) into our own restaurant, The Kihiw Restaurant,” he said.

Along with adding the restaurant, The Gold Eagle has also added an event centre which has brought some big acts to the city. The original casino building has also been expanded.

Currently the North Battleford Casino has 140 working on staff. Before the COVID-19 pandemic the casino employed 300 people. Atcheynum said they are working to get business back to where it was before the pandemic.

“It hasn’t rebounded yet, but we are working on it and I know it’s going to take quite a bit of work and planning and what not to get back to pre COVID numbers,” he said.

For those in the gaming industry, online gambling will be something which will be part of the landscape going into the future. SIGA will be involved in this as the First Nations owned gaming authority has signed an agreement with the provincial government to offer online gambling in Saskatchewan.

The development and emergence of online gambling is not something which worries Atcheynum.

“I think with online gaming, its going to help us, we still have the patrons that like the human touch and coming out and having excitement and being with members of the community, so overall I think it’s going to be a plus for us,” he said.

(Staff at The Northern Lights Casino in Prince Albert. Photo Courtesy of Facebook)

Richard Ahenakew, the general manager for The Northern Lights Casino in Prince Albert said they to have come a long way since first opening their doors to the public in 1996 at a temporary facility operated by Prince Albert Development Corporation.

“We opened our doors with VLTs and 20 plus table games, 250 VLTs and 20 plus table games, we had I believe 150 or 160 staff,” he said.

Ahenakew, who originally started working at the casino as a custodian, explained he noticed there was lots of community support for the them right away with people lining up outside no matter the weather conditions.

“It was just a new place with a lot of great people working there and (a) nice community gathering place,” he said.

When it comes to business success, Ahenakew explained the fortunes of the casino tend to mirror those of the greater community and like many business in the city they see increases in business when there are more tourists and events happening.

“When the community of P.A. does well, we do well,” he said.

Looking towards the future, Ahenakew does not see the emergence of online gambling as something traditional casino operators need to be worried about. He added the addition of online gambling is part of the industry progressing and said the two can compliment one another.

“I don’t see it as being detrimental; I think our people who like the brick and mortar are still going to come and we’re still going to continue grow as time goes on, on both the online presence and brick and mortar presence,” he said.

(Staff at The Gold Eagle Casino in North Battledford on the gaming floor: Photo Courtesy of Facebook)