BRITISH COLUMBIA – CANADA DISCOURAGES THE USE OF CASH AT CASINOS ~
FROM THE - JOURNALS of Monte Friesner
Financial Crime Consultant for WANTED SA ~
Friday August 26, 2011 >
Gamblers will be discouraged from using cash at British Columbia, Canada casinos to help crack down on money laundering, the B.C. government announced Wednesday. "The commitment is to transition the entire industry away from a cash business to an industry that runs on electronic funds transfer," Douglas Scott, head of the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB), said Wednesday. Scott said that when British Columbia's casinos first opened, the province felt requiring gamblers to buy chips in cash "would provide a psychological barrier for those people who have a problem with gambling."
But as the sums of money flowing into the province's casinos have grown, they have become a target for organized crime groups seeking to launder illicit funds. Encouraging patrons to buy chips with wire transfers will create an audit trail going both into and out of the casino. B.C. Lottery Corp. president Michael Graydon said it has begun experimenting in Metro Vancouver with "gaming accounts" that allow customers to transfer funds from a Canadian bank. In the coming months, said Graydon, the corporation hopes to expand that program to other casinos and begin accepting transfers from offshore banks.
While casinos will make such transfers easier, Graydon stressed Wednesday that "we will always accept cash." The hope is that if more customers use transfers to gamble, suspicious cash transactions will stand out more. Wednesday's announcement coincided with the release of a 16-page review of the province's anti-money-laundering measures by Rob Kroeker, head of B.C.'s Civil Forfeiture Office. That review found a number of gaps in how BCLC reports suspicious transactions to authorities, including assuming that someone who loses money at a casino is by definition not engaged in money laundering. "This view of money laundering ... is not in accord with the opinion of police or regulators," the report states, noting criminals seeking to launder their money may still choose to gamble some of it away.
Kroeker's report made 10 recommendations, from giving casino staff additional training in how to spot money laundering to having GPEB make contact with jurisdictions such as Nevada to learn how they deal with the problem. He also urged the province to set up a task force to determine how widespread money laundering is at B.C.'s casinos. NDP gambling critic Shane Simpson said the government hasn't gone far enough and should look at forbidding cash purchases at casinos above a certain amount. "They're doing nothing to take away that cash option from people who want it," Simpson said.
Kroeker's review was ordered in January by then-solicitorgeneral Rich Coleman after a series of media reports suggested money laundering was more widespread in the province's casinos than previously thought. Those reports included a Jan. 6 story in The Vancouver Sun in which the head of the B.C. RCMP's Integrated Proceeds of Crime section said casinos were routinely failing to flag large cash transactions as suspicious. And CBC broadcast a story about a man who bought $460,000 in gambling chips at River Rock with $20 bills.
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