EGD pilot project comes to an end, officially

The three-year electronic-gaming device pilot project that sought to measure the impact of the gambling machines on the local community officially wrapped up with a vote at the chiefs’ table last week, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake announced.

The project – which kicked off in 2018 with a three-year mandate in mind, but which had to be extended until 2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns – was officially terminated at the MCK meeting February 11.

The co-licensee of one of the two gaming establishments in Kahnawake with EGDs said he was pleased to have been part of the project, which largely confirmed what he already knew -- which was that the majority of gaming clients in Kahnawake’s gaming edifices come from outside the community.

“In terms of the scope of the project, we addressed and accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, which was to provide information about the players who come in here,” said Playground Poker co-licensee Mack Kirby. “That’s it. For us, it confirmed what we knew from day one, which was that local player participation was minimal to non-existent.”

Kirby said most of the Playground Poker clientele comes from Montreal, the western off-island area and surprisingly, from the United States.

“We have a lot of players from the U.S., and that’s been strategic on the part of our marketing as well,” said Kirby. “We’re confident that we bring in way more positives to the community than negatives.”

MCK chief Mike Delisle, who is the lead on economic development, which includes gaming, said the Kahnawake Gaming Commission will further examine the results of the project in the immediate short term.

“Now that the EGD pilot project has ended we will be engaging with the proponents, the KGC and the community to further assess the operational impacts that were identified within the report,” Delisle said. “This will give the MCK and the community further assurances that any and all impacts, including social will continue to be mitigated.”

The two EGD licenses (Playground and Magic Palace) that are in place will remain there for the time being, the MCK said. Those will remain there ‘until further dialogue is had between the MCK and KGC on existing and future public policy issues.’

Delisle said as long as the two establishments continue to play by the rules, there will be no issue with electronic gaming at those spots.

“Since the pilot project is complete, those licenses will remain, in perpetuity, as long as all conditions are respected,” he said.

Kirby said Playgound is focussing on the massive expansion his facility is undergoing.

“Our focus right now is on the expansion of the building,” he said, in order to add an entertainment venue, a new restaurant and to create a massive third-floor poker room. “It’s mostly non-gaming stuff that we’re putting in. That’s the focus for us at present.”

Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase