Roy Whitney-Onespot, Chief, Tsuut’ina Nation

Roy Whitney-Onespot, Chief
Tsuut’ina Nation
Grey Eagle Resort & Casino in Calgary, Canada

CHALLENGES/OPPORTUNITIES: 2021 is both filled with anticipated joys as well as somber reflection for us. We take the opportunity to remember the loss of our Elders and loved ones over the past year, as well as reflect upon the reminder of the forced separation from families and innocent lives that were lost through the Canadian Residential School system. This is a time to remember and honor the ones who have passed, while learning more about injustices and generational impacts that are felt in all First Nations. We also are filled with hope that it can be an opportunity to advance reconciliation and renew relationships based on recognition of rights, respect, and partnership.

During COVID shutdowns, we saw the Province of Alberta open an online gaming site, acting as a direct competitor to our casino, without any consultation or participation with First Nations. Unlike many other provinces, the Government of Alberta does not pool gaming revenue from its online casino for distribution to First Nations or charities. We know that the Province taking market share will have a significant impact on our ability to meet the needs of our people. We, along with all of the other charities in the province who are losing revenue, use casino funds to support the social needs of our people by spending proceeds on housing, infrastructure, education, and health. Economic Development rights, including gaming, are part of our Treaty Rights, and First Nations have never relinquished these rights. Given that the Province of Alberta has acted in bad faith as a regulator and abandoned our partnerships that were created, it also presents an opportunity for us to explore how we can participate in and shape the gaming industry going forward. We need to make sure we are innovating with customers to make sure that their ways of enjoying the ever-changing gaming industry can be met.  

KEY TO SUCCESS: Tsuut’ina has been blessed by the ways and teachings of our ancestors and elders to raise up passionate, persistent, and talented people, who continue to work hard to ensure that our way of life and our Nation continues to grow, both for the betterment of individuals today, as well as for generations to come. Along with being a courageous, active minority in Canada, those qualities have always allowed us to always come through difficult times, still standing and pushing forward.

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT: As we explore how to best grow our own revenue and the gaming industry in general, there are opportunities available. Whether it be through establishing our own online gaming platform, or working with existing established partners, there is a great appetite amongst the public for quality options in online sports betting, casino games, and slot games. Tsuut’ina is beginning the construction phase of one of the largest mixed-use First Nation developments in Canada, including the first Costco built on First Nation land, which has already seen record breaking operations. Part of our economic development will include expanding the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino, which is just minutes from downtown Calgary, and sits on the doorstep of the Rockies. We envision Grey Eagle to be the center piece of a large world-class entertainment district in Calgary that can service guests from around the world.