British Columbia Land Casinos Under The Microscope

Government to appoint an expert to review alleged money laundering at lower mainland casinos

Canadian press reports Friday are that the government of British Columbia is to appoint an expert to review possible money laundering at lower mainland land casinos.

The decision follows official reports completed last year but only released Friday that large volumes of unsourced cash have been too easily accepted by operators.

The report claims that law enforcement has indicated the money could be the proceeds of crime, and that the majority of it was “presented by persons commonly referred to as high-roller Asian VIP clients.”

The report, compiled by accounting firm MNP and delivered to the BC government in July, 2016, details cash buy-ins of more than $500,000 accepted at Richmond’s River Rock Casino Resort.

MNP noted that B.C.’s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch grew concerned after $13.5-million in $20 bills was accepted at River Rock in July, 2015. The report said money that could not be traced, from unknown persons, was dropped off for patrons at the casino or just outside casino property at odd times, generally late at night.

The report reveals that the majority of the high-risk patrons at River Rock were Chinese nationals. It also said many were recent immigrants to Canada, although it also noted that those playing with significant cash had non-Canadian addresses.

“We are serious about doing everything we can to identify money-laundering activities, and ensure policies are in place to prevent it from occurring in B.C. casinos,” the province’s Attorney-General David Eby said in a statement.

He added that the MNB report should have been made public when completed.

Eby will be announcing the appointment of the independent expert in the coming weeks.

Jim Lightbody, president of the BC Lottery Corporation, which oversees the province’s casino operations, said the Corporation has “zero tolerance for criminals who may attempt to target our business.

“If there is something more we can do to improve the anti-money-laundering efforts in B.C., we’ll do it,” he said.

In its report, MNP recommended that the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch should consider implementing a policy that requires casinos to refuse unsourced cash deposits exceeding a certain threshold.

It also recommended the enforcement branch and the lottery corporation support cash alternatives such as wire transfers, and that the lottery corporation both collect more information on high-risk patrons and re-evaluate its anti-money-laundering training program.

AG Eby’s office pointed out Friday that since the MNP report was completed there has been a general downward trend in unsourced cash entering B.C. casinos, and that tens of millions of dollars in cash transactions have been refused under the lottery corporation’s programs in recent years, and 150 customers have been placed on specific restrictions when it comes to unsourced funds.

The BC Lottery Corporation was also at pains Friday to point out that it has been introducing cash alternative payment options since 2012 and fully complied with information requirements for high-risk patrons. It said it improved its anti-money-laundering training program this year.

Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, which owns the River Rock casino, averred in a statement that it “strictly adheres to all regulatory requirements and maintains the highest standards of reporting at our properties.”