April 17, 2018 by

Manito Ahbee Festival in Winnipeg Shows the Future of Land Based Casinos

We talk quite a bit about how land based casinos are meeting the challenge posed by online casino gaming. One of the ways land based casinos meet this challenge is through the Integrated Resort concept. As much as we’ve discussed it in the past, we sometimes find a perfect example of how this idea might work in the land based casino industry.

Thus, the upcoming Manito Ahbee Festival is a perfect case in point. An Integrated Resort would have many theater options and vacation opportunities for singles, couple, and families. The Manito Ahbee Festival is a celebration of Original Nation song, dance, and art. Furthermore, although there are six land based casinos run by the unified Original Nations of Manitoba, the Manito Ahbee Festival is sponsored and run by the two privately owned casinos in Winnipeg.

The festival is the perfect manifestation of how a casino can change its spots and become much more than merely a venue for betting on casino games.

Festival Opening Friday May 16

The Manito Ahbee Festival will celebrate its thirteenth year beginning on May 16th. The opening ceremony will feature the lighting of the sacred fire, a Friendship dance, and pipe ceremony.


The following day is dedicated to the Indigenous Music Conference in which indigenous musicians can network with others in the music business. The music conference will run into Friday and Friday also includes Youth Education Day and the Indigenous Music Awards.


Youth Education Day includes a talk by Chante Speidel, Miss Manito Ahbee, who will speak about the traditional ribbon skirt and how wearing it helps her honor her indigenous culture.

Youth Education day includes dance demonstrations that cover many different dancing traditions including Northern Buckskin dancing and fancy shawl dancing. There is a long list of speakers who will share with the attending young people the rich traditions of the various indigenous tribes and the possibilities that are available to all indigenous youth through education in any field.


The weekend kicks off with and art exhibition and a marketplace and trade show. Anyone attending the Pow Wow will be able to buy any First nation arts and crafts on sale at the marketplace. Saturday brings out about 5000 people.


Although Sunday is the last day of the festival, it is also the day most filled with activities. “Getting Jiggy with It” begins in mid-morning with demonstrations of indigenous square dancing. The term “jiggy” comes from the term “jig” which was a Scotch-Irish word brought to North America and affixed to traditional dances.

The indigenous tribes of North America adapted their own traditional dances to the jigs they learned from Scotch-Irish settlers. This tradition is brought to the festival.

Sunday sees the continuation of the marketplace and the Pow Wow begins at noon. The Pow Wow is a native gathering of tribes. At the festival, it will feature over 800 dancers from many tribes and traditions.

Perfect Union of Gaming and Entertainment

The Manito Ahbee Festival is designed to attract First Nation peoples and non-indigenous people in a celebration of culture and tradition through song, dance, art, crafts, and much more.

This is a far cry from the traditional casino concept which offers gambling. In a separate venue, a casino might also offer some late night very expensive entertainment but the raison d’etre of casinos is gambling. The raison d’etre of Integrated Resorts is not gambling. Casino gambling is a side activity. There is simply too much to do at an Integrated Resort to call it primarily a gambling venue.

The Manito Ahbee festival shows perfectly that a casino, properly understood, can have such a varied set of activities that families feel comfortable going there and might not even feel the presence of the casino at all.

Online Gaming Challenge

Since online gaming began about twenty years ago, it has made steady inroads in the revenues generated by land based casinos. The overall gambling market earns tens of billions of dollars each year and the thousands of online casinos take a large share of this largesse. In addition, many local governments have been leery of allowing land based casinos to be built in their jurisdictions.

There is a perfect storm, so to speak, in the casino industry as mobile gaming becomes more popular than desktop gaming and more and more people around the world own a mobile device. The time when even the least expensive mobile device was out of the reach of most people is long past.

The one thing that online casinos cannot replicate is the feeling of people somewhere in real life. Land based casinos still attract millions of players because they love the excitement of a casino floor. Yet, many localities are not prepared for the type of people attracted to land based casinos.

Broad Based Entertainment

The Manito Ahbee Festival can be and surely will be duplicated in some form by many land based casinos looking to become a sort of Integrated Resort, to make themselves attractive to families and to people looking for a good time but not necessarily a good time based on gambling.

A country as vast as the United States has thousands of festivals of all sorts every year. We expect some of the already existing festivals and some new festivals to be sponsored by casino interests as they come to understand the importance of offering broad based entertainment.

Laurie Renfield Picture
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Laurie Renfield has been part of the casino scene for both print and virtual media outlets for over two decades. Renfield's research focuses on both land-based casino entertainment and online casino gambling. She is dedicated to making sure that, regardless of where a player decides to compete, they'll achieve the best gambling experience and the most satisfying rewards.

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