BUSINESS

BCLC’s lax reporting standards; OLG’s operator/regulator status challenged

TAGs: BCLC, money laundering, OLG, ontario lottery and gaming corporation

bclc-olg-gamblingDocuments obtained by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reveal lax standards were applied to high-value cash transactions at casinos operated and regulated by the provincially-owned British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC). The documents, which date from 2009/10, show the casinos routinely engaging in practices that fall afoul of the federal Proceeds of Crime, Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Act. At one casino in Burnaby, one-third of the large cash transaction reports were described as containing “insufficient detail.”, i.e. the casino had required a patron to be no more specific about his occupation than “self-employed.”

This isn’t the first time BCLC casinos have been accused of cutting corners when not doing so might interfere with revenues. In 2010, federal financial watchdogs FINTRAC fined BCLC $670k for sloppy paperwork habits, although BCLC has appealed the fine. Last January, BCLC was called out for its apparent lack of enthusiasm in reporting suspicious transactions to the police. Last February, BCLC was heckled in the BC legislature for not doing enough to keep minors from gambling. In September, loan sharks were said to be openly operating at BC casinos. FINTRAC observed that the number of suspicious transactions at Canuck casinos had gone down in every province except BC, where they had tripled. And all of that’s without any mention of the painful birth and subsequent growing pains of BCLC’s online site PlayNow.com. You’d almost swear there was some inherent conflict in BCLC’s dual role as both operator and regulator.

In response to the CBC report, BCLC’s director of operation compliance Bryon Hodgkin said changes had been instituted since those transactions were filed. Like in August, when BCLC announced its intention to “transition toward greater use of electronic funds … while not discouraging legitimate play.” However, Hodgkin made sure to remind listeners that BCLC’s obligation “is for us to gather [the data], not verify it, and as long as we meet that requirement, we’ve done our job in the anti-money laundering.” A job well done, Bryon. Well done.

ONTARI-NO LOTTERY AND GAMING?
Over in Ontario, opposition Conservative party leader Tim Hudak is questioning the benefits of his province playing Jekyll & Hyde via the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). “Should the government actually be in the gaming business? Do we get the best bang for our buck when the government is running these sites across the province? Or should they actually be privately run and simply regulated? I think that’s a way we could actually create jobs and save money.” Economist Don Drummond’s recent cost-cutting report recommended that OLG close one of its two casinos in Niagara Falls, but Hudak’s thinking of selling off OLG’s entire operations – including five casinos, slots at 17 racetracks, 10k lottery kiosks and a planned online gambling site – lock, stock and barrel (Niagara Falls sold separately).

Drummond, for one, doesn’t support Hudak’s fire sale concept, saying OLG’s operations bring in “substantial, ongoing and growing revenues.” Drummond also rubbished Hudak’s continued support of the $345m in annual revenue sharing – $3.4b over the past 14 years – OLG gives the province’s horse racing industry. Premier Dalton McGuinty mocked Hudak’s support for the subsidy, noting Hudak’s stated aversion to “corporate welfare” in every other situation save this one. The Toronto Star reported that several hundred horsemen of the apocalypse showed up at the provincial legislature on Wednesday to protest the proposed cut in their allowance. McGuinty is set to drop a new budget in March in which the details of his cost-cutting plans will be made clear. Will it be OLG or OMG?

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