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B.C. First Nations to receive one-time $74 million grant for lost gaming revenue

Funding will help First Nations recover from the pandemic, fires and floods
Casinos across B.C. shuttered in 2020-21 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

First Nations governments in British Columbia will benefit from a $74 million one-time provincial grant to make up for the loss of shared gaming revenues due to the COVID-19 pandmeic.

Gaming revenues for 2020-21 were about 80 per cent 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 government priorities, such as social services, education, infrastructure, cultural revitalization and economic development.

First Nations have also 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.

"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,” said Regional Chief Terry Teegee, B.C. Assembly of First Nations.

“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."

In 2018, a 25-year revenue-sharing commitment between the provincial government and First Nations in B.C. was reached. As a result of amendments to the Gaming Control Act and a long-term agreement, 7 per cent of BC Lottery Corporation's net income will be shared with First Nations through 2045.

The first funding was transferred in 2019,  which was used in communities for projects such as new housing, a community youth centre, wildfire protection and important language programs.

"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,” said Selina Robinson, minister of finance.

“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."

The funds from the revenue-sharing commitment 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.