Living Sky Casino reflects back on impactful first decade

Swift Current Arts Council President Melanie Friesen, Chief Alice Pahtayken from Nekaneet First Nation, Tourism Swift Current Executive Director Lee Friesen, Chief Alvin Francis, City of Swift Current Director of Business Development Marty Salberg, former Swift Current Mayor Sandy Larson, former Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority CEO Edmund Bellegarde and former File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council Chief Ron Crowe were all recognized for their efforts in helping the Living Sky Casino get off the ground.

The Living Sky Casino celebrated a look back at an impactful first decade while kicked off a five month long 10th anniversary celebration surrounding their December 29, 2008 opening.

A 10th anniversary Kick-off Gala was hosted on September 28 to both celebrate their achievements over the past 10 years, in addition to an announcement of a series of celebration events over the coming weeks and months.

A number of the key players during the development years of the Living Sky Casino were in attendance in order to be recognized for their efforts in ensuring the project ultimately came to fruition.

Tribal Chief Edmund Bellegarde, a former CEO of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, provided some key memories of those early efforts. He vividly recalls a phone call from ‘Wild’ Bill Thacker in July 2001, who politically incorrectly straight out asked Bellegarde “How do I get one of those Indian casinos down here in Swift Current?”

Bellegarde decided to call then Tribal Chair Ron Crowe from the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council and the duo ventured to Swift Current to investigate the idea further.

“So that one phone call that didn’t sound very business like, that didn’t sound very compelling, there was a bit of unknowing…just didn’t know how to approach a First Nation organization and maybe some of the protocols. He was just straight up and straight out.”

“So one phone call led to a $36 million development.”

He also remembers being in Swift Current on plebiscite evening on October 22, 2003 when the community voted 55 per cent in support of the casino/performing arts facility. The Event Centre added $5.5 million in capital costs to the overall project, but was integral in the casino moving forward.

“That was the vision and the compelling nature of the late Paul Rezansoff and the Swift Current Allied Arts Council. He had a vision. He wanted to get out of the High School and the temporary chairs. He wanted state of the art,” Bellegarde recalls.

“We believe that this was the value added to the proposal to that plebiscite question on October 22, 2003, that made a difference. That compelled some who were suspicious, apprehensive, skeptical, that a First Nations project like the casino could be a good thing for the community.”

It has since paid the way of a multi million investment by the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council into Swift Current. The casino was built at a cost of just under $36 million. Construction of the Home Inn & Suites, in partnership with D3H Hotels, was an $8.8 million capital project. They also built 22 new townhouses to provide affordable accommodations at a cost of $4.4 million.

“We’ve invested in the City of Swift Current. We believe that this is a great place to invest millions and millions of dollars. We’ve invested more than $48 million in capital projects since 2008.”

He also points out there is additional impact through community involvement.

“It’s starting to not only build a relationship, but it’s starting to, in the last 10 years, really demonstrate that there is value. There’s value in relationship. There’s value in building bridges. There’s value in getting to know one another. There’s value in peaceful co-existence and being good neighbours and working together. And that’s what we have here.”

Living Sky Casino General Manager Trevor Marion shared a series of impressive statistical milestones they have achieved in the past decade.

“It’s important for this community to know…what this team has done over the 10 years.”

He points out their 2017 Pow Wow resulted in a $2.3 million economic impact for Swift Current and area in a single weekend. That event attracted the largest local turnout of spectators among the previous pow wow events they have hosted. The Living Sky Casino will be hosting a 10th anniversary Pow Wow at the Stockade on February 16 and 17, 2019.

Casino sponsorships have also made a major impact over the decade. The Casino and SIGA have supported 176 different organizations though 347 sponsorship partnership, resulted in a $2.9 million impact over 10 years.

Their Volunteer Committee was established in 2012, with their employees doing things that support and do different things in the community to help other organizations that need it. Have contributed an estimated 4,600 volunteers hours over the past number of years.

“The purpose is to be a part of the community which we live and work and lend a helping hand when needed. We can easily just set up shop and just stay encompassed in the casino. We could do that, we could have done that, but we’re not going to do that. We will never do that. As part of SIGA we share success.”

Plus, the casino operations have had an economic impact, with a rough estimate of $160 million in jackpot payouts in the past decade.

“One of the funnest things about working at the casino is when somebody wins. And yes people win here at the casino.”

They boast a staff of 185 employees, and over a decade they have paid over $85 million in salaries to their employees.

The Casino also unveiled a special concert series to help them celebrate their 10th anniversary. The highlight concert will be a February 23 concert featuring Wayne Newton, who was the first act on the Event Centre stage in February 2009.

A kick off celebration concert featuring Colter Wall on October 10 has already sold out. Also unveiled were a performance by Canadian rock icons Trooper on November 22, and a New Year’s Eve concert by The Stampeders.

Additional ticket information is available at