March 16, 2018 12:53 pm

B.C. casino money laundering crackdown could lose the province nearly $50M every year: report

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An independent review estimates that a provincial crackdown on money laundering in casinos could chip as much as $47 million from B.C.’s annual budget.

That’s the conclusion of a report the province commissioned from HLT Advisory Inc. in order to forecast its gaming revenues in the 2018 budget.

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The budget assumed a reduction in gaming revenues of $30 million, which Attorney General David Eby described as the “mid range” of HLT’s analysis.

The HLT report looked at the implication of banning “high limit” table gambling in which cash buy-ins exceed $10,000.

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At the top end of the projection, it assumed banning the buy-ins would chase off all big money gamblers, while at the bottom end it assumed all customers would stay, and simply move to $9,999-limit tables.

According to the analysis, the top end estimate would cost casinos as much as $87.7 million, while the bottom end would cost $34.6 million.

When it comes to B.C.’s share of gambling revenue through the BC Lottery Corporation (BCLC), the potential lost income would range from $18.6 million to $47.2 million.

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The province said the report was commissioned last fall, after it hired former high-ranking Mountie Peter German to lead an independent review of anti-money laundering policies and practices in casinos.

German’s report is due before the end of March, and he is empowered to make recommendations for reform. Testricting cash buy-ins is one of the options open to him, the province said.

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In January, the BCLC implemented an interim recommendation from German requiring casino customers to fill out paperwork declaring the source of any cash deposits over $10,000.

Money laundering in the province’s casinos has been in the spotlight in the wake of media coverage and the unearthing of a report commissioned by the former BC Liberal government in 2016, but not released until last year.

That document, produced by accounting firm MNP LLP, found irregularities at Richmond’s River Rock Casino, including the acceptance of single cash buy-ins in excess of $500,000.

The report also detailed that the majority of the large cash transactions flowing through the casino were from “high roller Asian VIP clients.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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