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Gold Eagle Casino welcomes newest millionaire

Gary Mann of North Battleford wins over $1.3 million, in another sign that SIGA’s casinos are back post-pandemic
Smoke Signals win Mar 11 2022
Gary Mann and his wife Violet, (centre) accept the $1.3 million Smoke Signals cheque from General Manager Kelly Atcheynum and SIGA CEO Zane Hansen.

NORTH BATTLEFORD - A North Battleford man has claimed his jackpot of $1,301,560.21 won at Gold Eagle Casino. 

Gary Mann won the Smoke Signals top tier progressive jackpot while playing at Gold Eagle Casino on Saturday evening, March 5.

Mann, along with his wife Violet, received his cheque Friday morning, March 11, in a presentation at the Gold Eagle Casino. 

It still has not sunk in for Mann, who said he still does not know how he will spend the $1.3 million. 

Mann was clearly emotional about the huge windfall that has come his way, but didn’t let on how excited he was in his remarks to reporters.

“It’s alright,” Mann said of the win, who insisted “it’s not that big of a deal.” 

“I haven’t grasped it yet.”

Mann told reporters had been at the casino that Saturday night for a dinner celebration to celebrate a friends’  anniversary. Afterwards a few of them came out to the gaming floor to play some slot machines.

Mann was the last one to put his card into the Smoke Signals machine. After playing several spins, he hit a jackpot. But initially, he thought his win was much smaller.

“I didn’t have my glasses,” said Mann, who thought the machine read out a win of “$1,300”. 

But “then the thing dropped down and I could see the large numbers… and that was it.”

The Smoke Signals machine Mann was playing was called Lago di Amore, a game he chose because it was the “one with the hearts” on it — which seemed fitting given the anniversary celebration that night. 

Hearts must surely have been a lucky symbol for Mann, because after playing several spins he hit the jackpot. 

“The gods were with us,” Mann said. 

Smoke Signals is the progressive jackpot that links 51 slot machines at all seven SIGA casinos in Saskatchewan, including North Battleford, Prince Albert, Carlyle, Yorkton, Swift Current, Lloydminster and Whitecap Dakota near Saskatoon. 

It consists of three mystery jackpot tiers that increase over time. The top tier has a minimum value of $1 million and pays out before it hits $2 million. The numbers are randomly drawn and a jackpot could be triggered at any time.

That top tier jackpot has been hit 16 times. According to SIGA, Smoke Signals has paid out $50,626,063.69 of which $23,281,691.72 is from the top tier. 

Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority President and CEO Zane Hansen says whenever that jackpot is hit, it’s a big deal for the whole organization. 

“This is the fun part. When Smoke Signals goes, it echoes across the whole company right way,” said Hansen. “It’s our big main prize and days like this are a lot of fun to come and meet the winner and see what they’re doing and their plans.”

This is not the first time a million-dollar Smoke Signals jackpot has been won in North Battleford. On Nov. 25, 2019, Saskatoon resident Debbie Vidal won $1,333,974.82 playing Smoke Signals at Gold Eagle Casino.

Gold Eagle Casino General Manager Kelly Atcheynum said he was particularly happy to see a local resident win.

“We’re really happy it’s a local person from North Battleford today,“ said Atcheynum. Atcheynum also pointed out that March marked the 26th anniversary month for Gold Eagle Casino. It also showed that big wins can happen at their own local casino.

“It shows the province there is winners out here, you have good opportunities to win as well, too.”

The Smoke Signals progressive has now been reset back to one million dollars and can be won at any time.

This latest big Smoke Signals payout is also an indication that the SIGA casinos are back, after enduring a tough period of provincial restrictions due to COVID-19. 

At the pandemic’s height, SIGA was forced to shut down its casinos, and venues including Gold Eagle Casino had to lay off staff for extended periods of time. Now that restrictions have been totally lifted, the casinos are seeing customers return.

“Our patron counts are starting to increase, our restaurant is getting busier. It’s really nice to see, getting our employees back to work,” said Atcheynum. “That was our main thing, our number one priority was to get our staff back working and we’re seeing that now, trying to get back to our normal.”

“The biggest thing for SIGA is we’re just nicely back on our feet now, I think through the hardest times of COVID(-19), so we’re really happy to be back open and getting our customers back through the door,” said Hansen.

Beyond the land-based casinos, SIGA has major plans for 2022 to move into online gaming, with the organization putting agreements in place with the government to bring that to the province this year.

Among those online offerings will be single-event sports betting, which was recently legalized by the federal government. 

It will be similar to the Vegas-style sports betting that players are used to in that jurisdiction. Hansen said SIGA is “just concluding a process to bring in one vendor to service the whole province that way,” and should be announcing that before too long.

Hansen said there is a lot of work on the setup to do, and they hope to launch around July, around when the CFL season gets going.