$490K in cash among hundreds of suspicious casino chip buys: documents
Hundreds of suspicious cash transactions at the River Rock Casino – including gamblers dropping enough $20 bills in a single visit to buy a condo – are more evidence that B.C. has to radically reform its gambling rules, according to a money laundering expert.
One gambler exchanged $490,000 in more than 22,000 $20 bills, played for a few hours, and left with the remainder – and another played $350,000 in thousands of $50 and $100 bills, according to records obtained by CTV News.
Both transactions were marked as suspicious and were reported to the government and the police, the Richmond casino told CTV News. The River Rock reported some 600 suspicious cash transactions in a three month period – around six a day – totaling $22.7 million.
At that rate, in a year the cash could be stacked up taller than the Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver.
There’s no way that a modern financial institution would ever allow that kind of cash transaction, said Garry Clement, the vice-president of the Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists.
“Walking in with boxes of cash? I don’t think there’s anybody in the world who can justify that in the normal course of business,” Clement told CTV News. “There are a lot of red flags that go up.
“The only organizations that have that much money sitting around, generally speaking and there may be a rare exception, is the criminal element.”
Clement said to stop casinos from being a “weak link” in money laundering protections, they need to prove that cash isn’t coming from criminals or simply avoid taking more than $10,000 in cash at once.
“If we’re really serious, any institution under government control needs to lead and be an example and this is a clear case of not doing that,” he said.
B.C. has launched a probe of possible money laundering in casinos last week after an internal report revealed the River Rock’s staff have “fostered a culture accepting of large bulk transactions” and can’t properly gauge where the money really comes from.
“Law enforcement intelligence has indicated this currency may be the direct proceeds of crime,” the report says.
The B.C. Lottery Corporation told CTV News that the person who traded $490,000 gambled “for approximately three hours before leaving the site.”
The customer who gambled $350,000 “lost all of their funds,” the agency said. In both cases, the transactions were flagged for follow-up, the customers were selected for additional due diligence inquiries, and reports were made to the province and the police.
“B.C. maintains a rigourous anti-money laundering program in all provincial casinos, and is committed to fulfilling its role in Canada’s broader anti-money laundering regime, which is to monitor, record and report specific transactions,” the agency told CTV News in a statement.
Great Canadian Gaming, which operates the River Rock Casino, said it has “highly detailed and rigourous regulatory obligations that all Great Canadian facilities in B.C. adhere to and at all times we govern ourselves to meet or exceed those obligations, rules and standards.”
Former finance minister Mike de Jong under the previous Liberal government told CTV News that “it’s hard to justify half a million dollars” in cash.
“It strikes me as very odd and worthy of investigation,” he said.
De Jong said as minister he asked the B.C. Lottery Corporation for more information on large cash transactions.
“The amount of suspicious transactions began to decrease over time,” he said. “It’s still in the tens of millions. Not all of that represents criminal proceeds.”