04/28/2012 02:52 EDT | Updated 06/28/2012 05:12 EDT

Kahnawake vote rejects casino proposal

A $50-million casino project was voted down by a slim margin during a referendum in Kahnawake Saturday.

This was the third referendum held in the Mohawk community on the controversial development.

The vote was a close one, with 846 people voting no, while 822 Kahnawake residents voted yes, and 29 spoiled their ballots.

Kahnawake band leaders backed the project, which they said could be an important economic resource for their community.

But residents have now thrice rejected the casino through votes, and local groups have been outspoken about their opposition.

Kahteriio Goodleaf, 15, protested against the project because "it's just absolutely wrong."

"A casino is just like not our culture at all, it's gambling, and gambling is making money off of peoples' addictions. In other words, it's just making money off of peoples' suffering."

Leaders will respect Saturday's outcome, said Grand Chief Mike Delisle Jr.

"We'll listen to the community as we have in the past two referendums," he said Saturday.

"But our needs will not change, they'll continue to grow, so I think, based on our culture as well, it's time to add to the rafters and be able to look at adapting and developing for the betterment of our community."

Kahnawake residents were able to vote until 6 p.m. Saturday.