B.C. Lottery Corporation and its casino operators were planning a public relations campaign to combat increased scrutiny over money laundering by gamblers with ties to China.
An undated document released by BCLC under freedom of information on Sept. 25 to theBreaker said the Crown gambling monopoly and the B.C. Gaming Industry Association had plans to jointly “communicate the B.C. gambling industry’s commitment and actions to deter money laundering.”
They wanted to stage a media tour and security walk-through at a casino, where a reporter would be given $10,000 cash and shown “what happens when they buy in, the questions asked, forms completed. Walk reporter through various scenarios such as attempting to cash out after limited play and requesting a cheque.”
The four-page plan also suggested developing a composite of a large cash gambler, based on BCLC data, “in order to dispel the myths around the use of cash and high dollar value buy-ins.” BCGIA’s executive director, former Great Canadian Gaming executive Peter Goudron, was to receive media training, to “leverage the industry’s unhampered ability to speak.”
BCLC and BCGIA also contemplated holding a news conference with the Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team to unveil signs at casinos to warn gamblers that police will investigate suspicious transactions. They wanted to create an internal campaign to remind and re-energize service providers “on their role in preventing money laundering and preventing facilities from being targeted.”
The document said BCLC and its casino operators are “united in their goal” of safety in casinos and fulfilling anti-money laundering duties, but “there seems to be a lack of acceptance and trust from the public and media that the industry is committed to playing its role in AML.”
“A further challenge is that authorities conflate money laundering with spending laundered funds. BCLC has a comprehensive anti-money laundering program in place to detect and deter both however, money laundering is much easier for a business to watch for, detect and report than the spending of proceeds that have been already been laundered through the financial sector.”
BCLC must report to FINTRAC large cash transactions, payments to customers $10,000 and up, and suspicious transactions “or attempted transactions of any dollar amount and in any form that are suspicious.” The latter are also sent to the RCMP and JIGIT. Casino service providers must report unusual financial transactions to Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch. All BCLC and casino workers receive formal training on how to spot suspicious transactions.
Despite touting various safeguards, a Sept. 22-released MNP report from July 2016, that the previous BC Liberal government suppressed, indicated money laundering was rampant at Great Canadian’s River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond. River Rock was flooded with $13.5 million in $20 bills in July 2015. High rollers, mainly from China, were using underground banks to access large amounts of cash from suspected illicit activities. It also said high rollers were receiving shipments of cash to the casino or just off the property late at night. Some of the high rollers were also investing in high-end real estate in West Vancouver and Richmond.
Attorney General David Eby appointed Peter German, a law professor and former head of the RCMP in Western Canada, to investigate money laundering at Lower Mainland casinos.