A Lower Mainland casino worker says “someone is dropping the ball” when it comes to cracking down on money laundering in the province’s gaming facilities.
The employee spoke with CKNW’s Jon McComb on Wednesday on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
He said casino employees are aware, trained, and making the proper reports, but nothing is being done at a higher level.
“We’ll see patrons come in with bags of money, these patrons are quickly rushed to the cashier cage,” the worker said.
Those bags of cash, often up to $10,000, are usually filled with $20 bills, he said.
“What ATM machine shoots out $300,000 to $400,000 in 20s? And mostly I’d say, 70 per cent of the time it’s small denominations like 20s.”
The employee told CKNW that the cash is converted into chips, and the patrons fill out requisite paperwork which is submitted to regulators with the B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC).
“Yes, we are educated. And as far as a dealer’s concerned, if someone comes in with $10,000 on the table, they look to the pit boss. The pit boss then looks to the supervisor, he makes a call to the manger. And so on, and so on. So we are doing our due diligence.”
But he said there appears to be no follow up.
“Obviously, someone is dropping the ball here. Either someone is dropping the ball or really doesn’t care.”
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He added that often, the high rolling gamblers present themselves as students.
“You’d be quite surprised at how many studious people we have in Vancouver,” he said.
“And everything from the car that they drive, the money that they spend, we know the student is just a title for them obviously. They don’t want to have too much information known.”
The worker said he’s never seen any high rolling patron turned away, and that casinos – which rely on cash coming in as their business model – often will provide incentives to try and get those customers back.
The employee’s experience suggests a “breakdown” inside B.C.’s casinos, according to financial crime lawyer Christine Duhaime.
She said casinos have a duty to report on any suspicious incidents, such as big bags of money being brought in.
“They’re obliged to turn away customers that are attached to organized crime, that are doing loan sharking, that bring a bad reputation to British Columbia,” Duhaime said.
“The circumstances he’s describing sound like loan sharking in a garage or the parking lot.”
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The issue of supposed “students” gambling with large amounts of cash is another red flag, according to Duhaime.
Casinos are supposed to be sitting these clients down and verifying their identity as well as reporting the cases to FINTRAC, the federal agency charged with tracking financial crime, she said.
“You are supposed to be verifying your clients in any reporting entity, including casinos,” Duhaime said.
“This is such a B.C.–Vancouver problem for financial services. If the person is a student and they’re buying an $18 million house, or a Ferrari, or gambling for $20 million cash at a casino, it doesn’t make sense on paper for you as a casino, or a bank, or a realtor, and so you know that’s a suspicious transaction.”
Duhaime said it’s clear that there are problems, but that as a province B.C. doesn’t seem to want to invest in proper training for anti-money laundering initiatives — including at the casino employee level.
She added that the province needs to have someone to “take the reins and be in charge of financial crime.”
-With files from Emily Lazatin and Matt Lee