A scathing report by a security company describes a toxic work environment rife with assaults and racism at River Rock Casino Resort, where employees were often too scared to report incidents to their superiors for fear of being punished or their complaint would be ignored.
The Project Guardian report by Paladin Security senior investigator Jared Brin, commissioned by B.C. Lottery Corporation in November 2017, was published May 1 with the names of complainants redacted. The report said those who gambled with more money at the Great Canadian Gaming-owned casino were cut slack, even when those high-rollers misbehaved and harmed staff. (Great Canadian has yet to respond to theBreaker’s request for comment.)
“Two individuals told us that a manager or supervisor explicitly told them that they are to acknowledge and actively facilitate a different standard of behaviour for VIP patrons as compared to non-VIP patrons. According to several dealers and supervisors, verbal abuse bordering on uttering threats occurs daily, if not hourly,” said the 37-page report.
“Also identified as a concern were the extra considerations given to VIP players; in some cases, Chinese players are allowed to refuse a non-Chinese dealer at their tables, and are allowed to keep a dealer at their table who they deem good luck even if it means the dealer must miss a break or the opportunity to use the washroom.”
The high rollers’ Dogwood Room was singled-out for its combination of “overwhelming bet volume, poor standard of player behaviour and complicit supervisors and managers. They note this combination can, and has led to serious patron on dealer incidents.”
Staff that did not speak Mandarin felt they had no chance to work in a high-tipping VIP area. Players were swearing at dealers in Mandarin or Cantonese, to get around house rules against swearing at tables.
“A number of non-Chinese speaking dealers told us that if they’ve ever asked a Chinese-speaking supervisor or manager what a player was swearing or saying toward them, they are regularly told, ‘it’s better you don’t know what they’re saying,’ only to find out later that many of the Chinese language swears involve disturbing threats against the dealer and/or his or her family,” the report said.
Paladin gathered information from nearly 40% of the casino’s 1,200 employees via questionnaires and interviews. Interviewees that said they didn’t report incidents to their supervisors and managers felt nothing would be done and/or there would be negative consequences for complaining. They said that supervisors and managers often told complainants to “handle it yourself,” “turn a blind eye” or “they’ve lost a lot of money, let them blow off steam.”
Paladin was originally hired to examine complaints of sexual harassment by high rollers against staff, but it found problems much worse: at least 18 instances of documented physical assaults and at least seven instances of assault with weapons, at least four reported patron-on-staff instances of sexual harassment, and at least four unreported staff-on-staff instances of sexual harassment.
Paladin found one case of a table games dealer who had been threatened with death by a player, but the suspect was given only a 24-hour ban. Respondents said managers discouraged table games dealers from reporting assaults with unspecified weapons to the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch and RCMP.
While BCLC has not required staff to sign a non-disclosure agreement, reviewers learned that members of the River Rock Human resources department did. River Rock refused to provide copies to Paladin. Based on interviews, Brin believed the gag order says that the undersigned agrees to the content and conversation in the investigation be kept confidential and that it warns of discipline, including firing, if confidentiality is breached.
Workers suggested solutions such as: mandatory player education about treatment of River Rock staff; standardized training about what constitutes sexual harassment and how to address it; undercover BCLC or GPEB presence in high-light areas to witness inappropriate behaviour permitted by supervisors and managers; overt plainclothes officers to discourage behaviour before it begins; and employee education about labour laws and human rights codes.
A related report by GPEB said it reviewed all incidents at River Rock against the Criminal Code and consulted with retired law enforcement personnel who are now GPEB investigators, and it assessed the unreported incidents, but found they “did not meet the criteria necessitating [police of jurisdiction] notification.”
GPEB said those that it spoke to during the investigation said they had never been pressured or coerced into not reporting incidents of concern. Instead, GPEB found errors in incident categorization, lack of training, and discretion mistakenly exercised by lower level managerial staff (i.e. VIP managers / gaming managers) are contributing factors resulting in incidents of non-reporting.
“No one spoken to during GPEB investigation claimed to have signed a document where it was stated that they could not report an incident of concern to the necessary authorities,” said the GPEB report.
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