BUSINESS

British Columbia gaming minister takes Calvin Ayre’s advice — sorta

TAGs: British Columbia Lottery Corporation, money laundering

The fallout continues from the recent revelation that land-based casinos licensed by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) were involved in $8m worth of questionable transactions this past summer. The fact that BCLC appears not to have immediately informed the police about potential money laundering going on under their noses has now become more of a political issue than a criminal one.

british-columbia-gaming-minister-calvin-ayreSee, with deeply unpopular Premier Gordon Campbell having stepped down in late 2010, BC’s ruling Liberal party is currently leader-less. Sensing weakness, opposition party members hope to paint the Liberals as deregulating do-nothings who love criminals so much they want to have, like, 10,000 of their babies (or words to that effect).

And it appears to be working. For days, BC’s gaming minister Rich Coleman had avoided any public comment on the growing scandal. Then late on Friday, he released a statement saying that the province would conduct an investigation into the matter, the findings of which will be released in February.

So, for the record, the province will be investigating whether the province did anything wrong. There is, of course, a huge problem with this, and not just for the sake of ‘optics’. It’s a problem that Calvin Ayre has previously discussed at length. Only now, he’s got elected officials echoing his opinions.

As one Member of the Legislative Assembly told the Delta Optimist, the money laundering allegations are “a symptom of deeper problems in BCLC’s organization and its corporate culture. … There needs to be an arm’s-length, independent investigation … This government has repeatedly said that gambling is well regulated, but the reality is obviously much different. It’s a free for all out there.” Another opposition politician called for the Liberals to “to separate gaming policy and enforcement from the marketing side of BCLC … One minister cannot pressure the BCLC to expand and increase revenue while at the same time be asking it to monitor and regulate itself.”

Hmmm… Not to start any rumors, but given this display of Calvin’s willingness to take the lead on issues, would the Liberals consider installing Calvin as their new leader? Would Calvin consider taking the position (and the pay cut)?

There may not be any time to lose. News is now emerging that BC casino operators have received payments from BCLC equating to 3% of their net win — $400m in total over the past 13 years. The payments are intended to encourage the province’s 17 licensed casinos to improve and upgrade their facilities, but critics see it as an unnecessary subsidy for a sector that already averages a healthy profit margin. Especially since the Liberals have cut gaming-funded grants to charities to pre-1990 levels.

There’s no word on how much PlayNow.com might have received since it launched. Of course, there’s a chance that it hasn’t actually accumulated any net win, what with all that free money it handed out during the baccarat bonus fiasco. But I’m sure Premier Ayre (PremiAyre?) will get us those numbers in due course. Maybe he can also do something about these parking tickets…

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