UPDATE: A Ministry of Finance spokesman has blamed the spike in GCA violations on an “administrative error.”
British Columbia’s finance minister couldn’t – or wouldn’t – explain why the number of Gaming Control Act violations at licensed gambling operators skyrocketed 735% in a single year.
On May 17, the BC Ministry of Finance released the 2014-15 annual report of the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch (GPEB), which cracks the whip on the province’s licensed gaming operators, including casinos, lotteries, bingo halls, racetracks and the province’s online gambling site PlayNow.com).
The report – which has yet to be posted to the GPEB’s website but was independently published by journalist Bob Mackin – shows 3,215 violations of the Gaming Control Act (GCA) in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015, up from just 385 in the 2013-14 report.
The same day that the report was released, New Democratic Party finance critic David Eby attended a budget estimates hearing, at which he quizzed finance minister Mike de Jong (pictured) as to what was behind the year-on-year surge in GCA violations.
Business in Vancouver reported that de Jong claimed he was “still trying to ascertain a more fulsome description of what types of incidents or alleged violations might be captured by that number.” Eby reminded de Jong of his question later in the hearing, but never did receive an answer, fulsome or otherwise.
Eby also noted that despite the spike in GCA violations, the number of violations referred to Crown prosecutors for the filing of charges dropped from 37 in 2013-14 to zero in the most recent report. The number of suspicious transactions at BC’s licensed casinos increased by one-third to 1,832, but none of these were referred to the Crown, similar to the absolute lack of referrals in 2013-14.
BC is notorious for its laissez-faire approach to combating sketchy behavior at its licensed gambling establishments, a reputation that recently prompted the provincial government to revive the Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team that the very same Liberal government shut down in 2009. Call us cynics, but it sure seems like they got an advance copy of the 2014-15 report and wanted some political cover when the public relations dam broke.