B.C. casinos must declare cash deposits in new rules over money laundering

More inspectors at some casinos and tighter checks on gamblers with deep pockets have been ordered by the British Columbia government as it aims to prevent money laundering. Attorney General David Eby speaks to media during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria on Thursday, November 23, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

VICTORIA - More inspectors at some casinos and tighter checks on gamblers with deep pockets have been ordered by the British Columbia government as it aims to prevent money laundering.

The new security measures are the result of an ongoing independent probe of suspicious cash transactions at B.C. casinos, Attorney General David Eby said Tuesday, adding more changes could be announced when the government receives a final report.

Peter German was appointed in September to deliver a report to the government by March, but the former RCMP deputy commissioner and money laundering expert was given the authority to provide interim recommendations to tackle suspicious activities.

Eby said the review was prompted by a report that the River Rock Casino in Richmond had accepted $13.5 million in $20 bills over a one-month period in 2015, which police said could be proceeds of crime.

The Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which runs River Rock, has said compliance procedures are strictly followed and the company is committed to preventing illegal activities at all its locations.

Eby said he has directed the B.C. Lottery Corp. and the government's gaming policy branch to set up identification rules on cash deposits of $10,000 or more in addition to the appointment of round-the-clock regulators at large facilities.

Gaming facilities must now be able to identify customers playing with cash or bonds of $10,000 or more and have the customer provide the source of the money, he said.

"Mr. German has confirmed for me there is cash coming from unknown, illegitimate sources in Lower Mainland casinos in British Columbia," he said. "These are sizable transactions."

When pressed about the possibility the casinos were being used to launder cash, Eby said he did not want to prejudge the issue ahead of the final report.

The 24-hour on-duty regulators have the power to monitor and discipline gaming employees and casino owners. They will be working with undercover police squads, Eby said.

"This presence will allow for an increased vigilance required in casinos," Eby said in a statement.

The original report that set off German's review was commissioned by the previous Liberal government. Eby made the report public only after the NDP took office.

"It may seem like common sense to British Columbians when someone shows up with a duffel bag full of $20 bills or a hockey bag full of $20 bills that there is some kind of problem there," Eby said.

The B.C. Gaming Association, which speaks for casino operators, said in a statement: "Mr. German’s interim recommendations provide enhancements to how B.C.’s casinos handle large cash transactions that we believe represent the continued evolution of the framework we work within in the province."

Last month Eby gave the B.C. Lottery Corp. more authority to monitor the gaming industry with new service agreements aimed at strengthening security and compliance.

The lottery corporation issued a statement Tuesday welcoming German's ongoing review and accepting the two interim recommendations, saying it is actively engaged in the prevention and detection of money laundering.

The lottery corporation generated $1.3 billion in net revenues for the province in 2016-17.

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