Pubdate: Sat, 16 Apr 2016
Source: Daily Courier, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Page: A10


B.C. plans to crack down on money laundering at casinos. We hope the 
government's heart is truly in its task, given that total government 
revenues from commercial gambling in 2013-14 totalled $1.17 billion.

The move is long overdue. The government has made it easier for 
organized crime to use B.C. casinos for money laundering and 
loansharking since it ditched the gambling-crime investigative task 
force seven years ago.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong said Monday 22 officers with the 
Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit will be dedicated to 
investigating groups that use gaming facilities to legalize proceeds of crime.

He said police will work with the B.C. Lottery Corp. and the Gaming 
Policy Enforcement Branch as part of the Illegal Gaming Investigation Team.

One of the challenges of being a criminal with wads of illegal money 
is how to make all that dirty cash seem legitimate. No problem - 
bring in $8,000 or $9,000 from drug deals and use it to buy gambling 
chips. Make a few small bets, then cash in your chips. You get a 
casino cheque that indicates your money is legal winnings from gambling.

In a case reported in 2011, one man didn't even bother making a show 
of gambling. He came into a New Westminster casino to turn in $1.2 
million worth of chips. He took the money in cash, telling the casino 
staff he was boarding a flight and was worried the money might look 
suspicious. He was given a letter confirming that the cash was a casino payout.

Under Canadian law, any cash transaction larger than $10,000 - 
whether at a bank, currency exchange or casino - must be reported to 
the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.

Agencies are also required to send a suspicious-transaction report 
whenever there are reasonable grounds to believe a transaction is 
related to money laundering or terrorist financing.

In 2014, the CBC, analyzing 500 reports of suspicious transactions, 
found that over a three-month period, gamblers in four Lower Mainland 
casinos brought in bags of $20 bills that added up to millions of dollars.

Some people showed up with plastic or paper bags filled with wads of 
20s held together by rubber bands. One person came into a casino with 
$49,900 in various bills wrapped in rubber bands. A few weeks later, 
another person came in with $100,000 in $20 bills, the favoured 
denomination for street-level drug deals.

These transactions were dutifully reported, but police were rarely, 
if ever, contacted. Despite all the suspicious activity at casinos 
over the years, few charges have resulted.

In 2008-09, the gaming enforcement branch launched 877 investigations 
into suspected counterfeiting, money laundering and loansharking. Not 
one charge was laid.

The specialized police unit created in 2004 to help fight 
gambling-related crime was disbanded in 2009. Rich Coleman, then 
minister responsible for the B.C. Lottery Corporation, said the team 
"just, frankly, didn't work."

Well, this time make it work. Give it the resources and powers needed 
to investigate and arrest.

"British Columbians that attend our casino and gaming establishments 
do so in the knowledge that they are participating in a lawful form 
of entertainment," said de Jong. "They want to know and deserve to 
know that the people sitting at the tables with them are doing so on 
the same basis."

Perhaps de Jong should step back and leave the matter to Mike Morris, 
solicitor general and public safety minister.

This is a job for someone whose responsibility is to fight crime, not 
someone whose job involves keeping an eye on the billion dollars in 
gambling revenues the government brings in each year.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom