Many casinos in the Lower Mainland were found to be laundering sites for illicit cash, resulting in a lengthy report from Peter German, who gave 48 recommendations for change. The City of Victoria is following up to see what has been done with these recommendations before moving any further ahead with considering a new casino. In this photo, people working at an unidentified casino in the Lower Mainland are caught on video shuffling illicit cash. (Photo courtesy of Government of B.C.)

Victoria wants more information on money laundering prevention in casinos

Council is hesitant to open new casino after Lower Mainland sites were found cleaning illicit cash

Victoria City Council is looking for details from the B.C. Lottery Corporation and the B.C. Attorney General about how they will prevent money laundering in any future casinos.

In a report released in March 2018 by Peter German, a lawyer and RCMP veteran, casinos in the Lower Mainland were determined to have “unwittingly served as laundromats for the proceeds of organized crime.”

German put forward 48 recommendations for the BCLC, the provincial and federal governments, and police to try to prevent further problems.

Victoria City Councillor Jeremy Loveday wants to know what government bodies have done with those recommendations since Victoria was selected by the BCLC in 2015 as a prime contender for a new casino.

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“I’ve been opposed to the city as a host site, but in the very least I think council needs this information before moving forward with a decision of whether we want a casino downtown,” Loveday said. “In my mind it’s imperative that we have the facts and outcomes at hand before considering any applications for a new casino so we can make sure we can safeguard our communities.”

The BCLC said in an email that the most recent changes to B.C. casinos began in January 2018, stemming from recommendations put forward by German in an interim report.

These included the need for all casinos to complete a source of funds declaration for all cash, bank drafts and certified cheque forms of buy-ins over $10,000. This means detailed information about where a patron’s funds are coming from is now recorded. Casino patrons must also provide an original receipt from a bank as proof of the source of funds.

READ MORE: City of Victoria to take public’s temperature on casino

“BCLC is committed to a robust compliance program to prevent, detect and report suspicious activity in B.C. gambling facilities,” said BCLC spokesperson Lara Gerrits in an email. “BCLC is working with Government on recommendations contained within Dr. Peter German’s report, and remains steadfast in its commitment to ongoing improvement of its anti-money laundering program.”

Attorney General David Eby said in an email that the government is doing its best to follow German’s recommendations.

“Our government believes it’s critical to restore British Columbia’s international reputation, and ensure that B.C.’s casinos are never again considered a safe haven for laundering the proceeds of organized crime,” Eby said.

“We have already taken action on several of Dr. German’s recommendations and seen a dramatic decrease in suspicious cash transactions as a result. As we implement Dr. German’s remaining recommendations, I’m confident anti-money laundering systems will be further strengthened in B.C.”

Eby’s office reported that six of the 48 steps have been fully completed, including the development of a transaction analysis team; that that team meet weekly, that the BCLC not engage in any undercover operations (unless police are working with them), that no more expenses be incurred by BCLC with respect to certain software systems, that cash limits are not imposed by buy-ins, and that regulatory investigators continue to be Special Provincial Constables.

For Loveday, his largest concerns surround the wider implications an illegal casino operation could cause. Money laundering in the Lower Mainland was linked to the opioid epidemic and the housing crisis, problems that Loveday said cannot be exacerbated in Victoria.

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“We’re facing that same storm of crises here and we need to do everything as a community to make sure we’re not worsening these crises and taking steps to prevent them.”

Loveday has motioned that council write to the BCLC and the Attorney General for updates, and has scheduled the proposal for the upcoming council meeting on Thursday, Sept. 20.

At this point, the BCLC said that they are in the procurement process to get a potential service provider for a downtown Victoria casino and that nothing has been approved by either the BCLC or the City of Victoria.

Previously, the Crystal Gardens had been a potential site, but that idea is reportedly no longer being considered.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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