Neon lights glow, reels spin, faces are focused.
Chances Salmon Arm officially opened its doors on Monday, July 20, providing the public its first taste of a full-fledged gaming centre in Salmon Arm.
The gaming centre is built on Adams Lake Indian Band land at 384 Trans-Canada Hwy. and is a collaboration between the band and Berezan Management.
Elder Joseph Johnny of the Adams Lake Band began the opening ceremony with a prayer and blessing in the Secwepemc language.
In English he said how good it is to see his people working again, adding he is pleased to be speaking his own language.
Smudging and singing were also part of the opening ceremony.
Chief Robin Billy of the Adams Lake Band thanked the developers, acknowledging a new era and relationship with the City of Salmon Arm. He said it’s good “to stand each other up,” as was the intention in 1910.
He noted that a lot of people have gone through the interview process, a process which resulted in the hiring of 85 people.
“It’s a very great day,” he concluded. “I wish you all great success in the future.”
Jim Lightbody of the BC Lottery Corporation said this will be the corporation’s fourth partnership with First Nations bands. He said in 2014 gaming grants worth a total of $600,000 went to 36 organizations in Salmon Arm.
Lightbody said the province of B.C. founded the lottery corporation 30 years ago and has given back $18 billion over those 30 years.
Ralph Berezan of Berezan Management pointed out that work on the gaming centre for Salmon Arm started more than five years ago, noting the effort that former Adams Lake chief Nelson Leon, who was in attendance, contributed.
“Everybody put their effort into this,” he said.
Once the formal ceremony was over, the crowd moved inside.
Chances Salmon Arm offers 99 slot machines, one electronic blackjack machine and 124 electronic and 24 paper bingo seats – for those who prefer daubers – on its 9,000-square-foot gaming floor. The bingo section was not open but is expected to be ready on Friday.
The spacious modern look with open ceilings and exposed duct work conveys something of an aquatic theme, with a wave-shaped ceiling and a wall of bubbles separating the gaming centre from the dining area. A couple of slot machines sport the name Lobstermania and Fishing Bob.
It wasn’t those that produced the first winner, however.
Just a few minutes after putting $50 in one of the machines, Sheila and Mike – who didn’t wish to have their last names used – were thrilled to see a row of five owls times 10 on their machine.
“We’re up 400 bucks in the first 10 minutes,” grinned Sheila, giving Mike a hug.
Also in the gaming centre is a Game Sense station, providing tips for avoiding addictive behaviour.
Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson attended the opening, saying the gaming centre will contribute to the Adams Lake Band as well as the regional economy.
Iva Jules, land manager with the Adams Lake band, who was also involved in the early days of planning, said, “We’re kind of in shock. It took so long to get here and now it’s here. To see our band members employed here makes it even more special.”
Gina Johnny was equally pleased.
“It’s so exciting. We’re all winners,” she laughed.
The Adams Lake band will receive 10 per cent of the province’s net income from the centre. The lottery corporation projects revenues will be about $7.7 million for the first full year in operation.