Premier awaits review of casino allegations

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell says he’ll follow up on the findings of a CBC investigation that raised concerns organized criminals could be laundering money at B.C. casinos.

„These are important allegations. They are allegations that will be followed up and we will make sure that the gaming policy in our province is properly protected,“ Campbell said from Beijing, where he was opening the province’s new B.C. Pavilion.

On Wednesday, Solicitor General John van Dongen called an emergency meeting with the head of the B.C. Lottery Corp. after a CBC News investigation showed suspected money laundering at the province’s casinos was under-reported.

As part of the investigation, CBC reporters exchanged thousands of dollars in bills of CAD 20 and CAD 100 for cheques from the casino, demonstrating how criminals could use the gambling operations to hide illegal revenues.

Documents obtained by the CBC also showed casino workers routinely observed dozens of suspicious financial transactions each year, but only a fraction were reported to the federal agency that tracks money laundering.

Campbell said he was confident the solicitor general would get to the bottom of the issue.

„There are some allegations that have been made. The solicitor general will do a full and diligent review and we will have an opportunity to respond,“ said Campbell.

When asked if the government might have allowed the province’s gambling industry to grow too quickly to properly police potential criminal activity, Campbell said the rapid growth of the industry was not an issue.

„I don’t think there is any evidence of that.… I’m confident in the system,“ he said.

Critics of B.C.‘s casinos have long pointed out that the provincial government is the both benefactor and the regulator of casinos.

In its current budget, the B.C. government forecast the province’s casinos would make CAD 1.2 billion this fiscal year after winnings are paid out, nearly three times the CAD 445 million revenue in 2000.

The solicitor general’s office, through its Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, oversees the regulation and enforcement of gambling in B.C.

The solicitor general is also responsible for management of all the gambling in the province, including casinos, through the provincially owned BC Lottery Corporation and its private sector partners.