Canada’s Financial Intelligence Unit Raises Money Laundering Concerns in Casinos

A financial year-old casino report came out of the closet this week, raising concerns regarding irregular cash transactions at Richmond’s River Rock Casino. Canada’s financial watchdog is to put the report under the microscope and consider stricter anti-money laundering measures. Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC) revealed that more than a half of River Rock casino workers lack the needed knowledge of money laundering indicators. Hence, Canada’s financial watchdog announced that it embarks on suspicious money transactions hunt at British Columbia (BC) gambling venues.
This week shipped with a shocking revelation. The newly elected BC government dug out a shelved casino report from the last year, which reveals some suspicious money dealings. The report in question was kept in dark from the previous Liberal government, withholding the casino report for more than a year. Attorney General David Eby commented that the previous government should have publicized the report, as it raises concerns regarding illicit cash. He added that BC can tackle the problem by keeping its eyes open for it and improve its anti-money laundering regime.
Casino Report Serves as an Eye-Opener
The report found out that in July 2015, the River Rock Casino Resort had received around $13.5 million in $20 bills. Moreover, the report claimed that River Rock casino employees did not show any signs of being concerned by the fact that Asian VIP customers of the casino were buying chips worth a fortune, paying only with bills of $20. Ears ago, police have warned that $20 bill is the most used bill by drug dealers. Nevertheless, the casino workers were unbothered by the fact that a number of rolls featuring $20 bills entered River Rock Casino. FINTRAC explained that almost 80% of the casino staff lack the needed knowledge of the indicators of suspicious money transaction. Mr. Eby announced that the financial experts will also explore if the casino tried to comply with the anti-money laundering measures or it did not take any actions at all.
It emerged on the surface that in 2016, FINTRAC sent a letter to the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), alarming for River Rock’s weaknesses. FINTRAC’s letter was also swept under the carpet along with the casino report.
British Columbia casinos do not file suspicious money transaction reports directly to FINTRAC, but firstly yo BCLC, which is responsible for informing the national financial watchdog. A flashback to the past recalls that this is not the first time, in which FINTRAC warns BCLC about gaming operations supervised by it. In 2010, BCLC was even slapped $670,000 fine for failing to adequately perform its functions. All these mistakes may have more than a negative impact on the BCLC, as the BC government announced that it will also reconsider the Lottery Corporation’s “financial responsibilities”.
Tightening Anti-Money laundering Measures
British Columbia Lottery Corporation, on the other hand, expressed its commitment to the heavy task to improve its anti-money laundering and close any loopholes in the regime. BCLC has started to move to non-cash options such as bank drafts and electronic fund transfers. Moreover, BCLC added that 276 people from all provincial gaming areas were banned due to suspicious behavior. The recently-elected B.C. government is to appoint an independent expert to explore potential money laundering in Lower Mainland casinos. This is expected to happen in the coming few days, but Garry Smith, a gambling research specialist with the University of Alberta’s Gambling Research Institute, said that there is a conflict of interests between the Canadian governments, as they are allowed to decide their own rules, which may obstruct the British Columbia New Democratic Government from actually tightening the rules.