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New QEII casino south of Edmonton will promote 'living together in harmony,' Chief says

If the Chief has his way, there will be more than just gas, good food and gaming going on at a new First Nations-owned casino complex south of Edmonton.

Ground was broken on the new Bear Hills Casino and Travel Resort near Maskwacis Wednesday morning.

Louis Bull Tribe Chief Desmond Bull said it represents "prosperity" for his people and a step toward "truth and reconciliation" with everyone else.

"Under the Treaty we are supposed to be sharing the land, we're supposed to be helping each other, we're supposed to be living together in harmony," Bull explained.

"And I believe that something like this, in regards to making those collaborations, will get us to that step."

Bull said the project is already about 30 years in the making. The casino and gas station will be built first, with a hotel and event centre possible for the future.

It will be the sixth First Nations-owned casino in Alberta and the first on the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, located about 60 kilometers south of the Edmonton International Airport.

"We certainly partnered with the tribe, looking at projections and revenue and location and all of the other parts of operating a casino to make sure it's going to be successful," said Kandice Machado, CEO of Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis.

The Louis Bull Tribe owns 100 per cent of the project, but Bull said he's willing to work with the other three nations of Maskwacis to make it bigger.

A rendering of the Bear Hills Casino and Travel Resort near Maskwacis, Alta.

He said a future stop on an Alberta high-speed rail connection between Edmonton and Calgary is something he'd be interested in, as well as a small airport.

"When I look to the future, I see this not only as a casino, but a hub for electric vehicles," Bull told the crowd gathered for the ceremony.

"The transition is already happening for electrical vehicles, and I honestly believe this could be that central area where people can come charge up their vehicles, spend some time, learn about our culture and maybe throw in 10 or 20 bucks in the slots."

Louis Bull plans to start construction this winter with an opening set for Christmas 2023.

On average, 30,000 vehicles travel the QEII each day, according to the province. The project is expected to create hundreds of jobs for members of the Louis Bull Tribe.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's David Ewasuk Top Stories

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