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Posted: April 21, 2022

Province provides funds for lost gaming revenues

First Nations governments financially challenged by the pandemic and natural disasters will benefit from a one-time provincial grant that makes up for the loss of shared gaming revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

First Nations have been hit hard by the pandemic and subsequent fires and floods. In many cases, funding intended for initiatives such as home construction, language revitalization and community improvements has been used to meet immediate daily needs instead, a joint Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and B.C. First Nations Gaming Revenue Limited Partnership media release outlined.

Adding to this challenge, gaming revenues for 2020-21 were approximately 80% lower than anticipated due to pandemic health measures. The $74-million grant will mitigate the loss of revenues that had been crucial to supporting First Nations governments’ priorities, such as social services, education, infrastructure, cultural revitalization and economic development, the release stated.

“The gaming commission is pleased to have worked with the province to deliver this important relief to First Nations communities from COVID-related impacts on their share of gaming revenues. This grant will ensure that communities can continue to plan and implement their priorities for the coming year and beyond,” said Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair Kathryn Teneese, who is co-chair of the BC First Nations Gaming Commission.

“British Columbia recognizes the pressures First Nations are facing, resulting from both COVID-19 and recent catastrophic events. Through this grant, we are keeping our promise to support First Nations in delivering on the priorities and services they have identified, such as new housing, community youth centres, wildfire protection and important language programs,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

“Gaming revenue sharing has become an important economic component for our communities. These critical funds have provided First Nations with the flexibility and resources necessary to develop community-driven priorities to address a broad spectrum of issues, including developing local economies, addressing housing shortages, promoting health and wellness, and preserving and strengthening Indigenous languages,” said Robert Phillips, First Nations Summit political executive.

“We are very appreciative that the provincial government has recognized the negative impact the pandemic has had on First Nations economies, in particular gaming revenue sharing, over the past two years. This relief grant will ensure First Nations communities will continue to recover from the economic and other hardships created by the pandemic.”

Regional Chief Terry Teegee, B.C. Assembly of First Nations added, “I am pleased that First Nations communities in British Columbia will be offered opportunities to benefit from this $74-million grant to the BC First Nations Gaming Revenue Sharing Limited Partnership. Gaming revenue sharing is a vital source of funding, and this contribution will be welcomed to support economic growth and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. First Nations have been hit the hardest by the socioeconomic consequences, and it is critical that they be able to design their own recovery policies and address their specific needs. Providing these resources will enable First Nations’ participation in the province’s ‘build back better’ priority on their own terms.”

“We know that First Nations in B.C. have faced extreme hardship from multiple emergencies, including COVID, wildfires and flooding, all of which hit our communities harder due to the ongoing impacts of colonialism. There is a glaring need for funding to support communities in their recovery and rebuilding efforts, and this grant will be appreciated,” said Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

“In 2018, we made a commitment to First Nations that we would start a new fiscal relationship and work toward secure long-term revenue sharing that recognizes their rights and supports self-governance and self-determination. This grant will ensure First Nations are not further impacted by lost gaming revenue caused by COVID-19 and that they can continue to deliver services for community members, support local needs and keep their communities strong,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance.

A 25-year revenue-sharing commitment between the provincial government and First Nations in B.C. was reached in 2018 to support self-government and self-determination, strong healthy communities, and services that make life better for families.

Under the long-term agreement, the province is committed to sharing seven per cent of annual net provincial gaming revenues with First Nations communities through 2044-45.

From 2019 to 2021, seven per cent of BC Lottery Corporation net income was almost $123 million.

The funds flow through the First Nations Gaming Revenue Sharing Limited Partnership, established by the First Nations Gaming Commission. The limited partnership is owned by First Nations and overseen by a First-Nations-appointed board of directors. Its role is to manage and distribute the funds to eligible First Nations.

B.C. First Nations determine their own priorities for these funds, which may be spent in six areas:

* health and wellness;

* infrastructure, safety, transportation and housing;

* economic and business development;

* education, language, culture and training;

* community development and environmental protection; and

* capacity-building, fiscal management and governance.

Lead image: St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino when closed in 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic. e-KNOW file photo


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