Further evidence of government corruption in British Columbia’s provincially-owned casino industry keeps surfacing ahead of a crucial money laundering probe.
On Wednesday, Global News reported getting their hands on a confidential Royal Canadian Mounted Police report into Asian organized crime elements infiltrating and corrupting casino operations owned by the provincial government’s British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC).
The RCMP’s January 2009 report urged the BC government to use the BCLC-funded Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team (IIGET) to target drug cartels that the RCMP believed were using both BCLC casinos and underground gaming venues to launder money. Instead, the BC government shut down the IIGET three months later.
At the time, BC’s gaming minister Rich Coleman claimed that cuts to BCLC’s budget were responsible for disbanding IIGET, which Coleman called ineffective and inefficient. But IIGET’s annual budget was a mere $1m and the ensuing casino money laundering free-for-all ultimately convinced BC to establish an IIGET replacement six years later (with an annual budget of $4.3m).
The RCMP report draws a direct line between BCLC casinos and the underground variety, noting that BCLC “casino staff have directed patrons to loan sharks or to common gaming houses.” At least seven major loan-sharking rings were known to operate in Vancouver-area casinos. (Even Macau casinos take action against loan-sharks, possibly because they’re not run by the local government).
BC CASINO INVESTOR HAD ASIAN CRIME TIES
The RCMP report also contains the allegation that an individual “connected to Asian organized crime … was allowed to buy into a casino” owned by BCLC. Neither the individual nor the casino was named in the copy of the report contained by Global.
Also going unnamed was the regulatory investigator who was “involved in the share transfer process” that allowed the crime-connected investor to take a stake in the casino. The report claims the investigator “is alleged to have known about these connections.”
The report doesn’t specify if the investigator raised any concerns regarding this investor’s criminal connections or if the government took any action in response to anyone sounding the alarm. The investigator reportedly left the government and ended up working in “the legitimate gaming industry” for an unspecified company.
THE CONFLICT OF INTEREST PARTY’S OVER
Former Crown prosecutor Sandy Garossino told Global that the allegations contained in the report reflected “a mentality of turning a blind eye to criminality” and suggested “a complete collapse of regulatory oversight.” A provincial inquiry into BCLC’s shortcomings is expected to get underway this spring.
For years, CalvinAyre.com has called out the inherent conflicts of the BC government acting as both gambling operator — BCLC farms out day-to-day management of its casinos to private firms — as well as a regulator overseeing gambling activity that contributed over C$1.4b (US$1.07b) to the provincial budget in fiscal 2018-19.
At long last, this incompatible dual role is slated to come to an end. BC’s new provincial government, which introduced strict new source-of-funds requirements that have pumped the brakes on BC casino revenue, announced plans last month to establish a new Independent Gambling Control Office (IGCO) by spring 2021.