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British Columbia Shut Anti-Illegal-Gaming Unit Despite Risk Warnings, Internal Memo Claims

A confidential British Columbia government memo obtained by Postmedia News via an access to information request alleges that British Columbia’s anti-illegal-gaming enforcement team was suspended due to financial reasons. According to the document, the unit’s closure would increase organized crime’s involvement in illicit gambling practices as it was suggested by a separate threat report issued as a warning by the unit 3 months prior to its shutdown in 2009. This flagged corruption concerns as the provincial ministry was aware of the risks.

The investigative unit, also known as Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team (IIGET), was funded by British Columbia government until April 2009, when the team’s doors were shut down. The March 2016 document explains that the unit was responsible for investigating illegal gambling practices and facilities, but money-laundering crimes were not under its jurisdiction. Following the closure of the unit, its responsibilities were assigned to an individual police department. The latter was in charge of policing the gambling activities in the region.

The document alleges that the unit’s closure ensued from “funding pressure” on British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), which was the main provider of funds to the unit. The document points out that IIGET received around $1.5 million per year for its operation, while the B.C. government reaped $2.6 billion from the gambling industry in tax revenues over the span of a year.

Threat Assessment Report Predicts the Aftermaths

In January 2009, the anti-illegal-gaming enforcement team prepared a 36-page threat assessment report. Its goal was to warn the team’s governing board about the potential dangers in case the unit is closed. The report examined the rates of illegal gambling in the province from 2005 to 2008. It warned that some organized criminals managed to mask their illicit gambling practices as legal by infiltrating in the country’s legal gaming operations. In its final lines, the report concluded that the B.C. casinos are easy targets for organized criminals and it recommended that IIGET should be the body responsible for all type of gambling crimes.

The 2009 threat report unveiled some details, which were swept under the carpet prior to its release. Besides shedding light on the real scope of illegal gambling in the province, the report raised concerns regarding “conflict of interest/potential corruption”. This section was redacted due to law-enforcement reasons.

Only 3 months later, the officials ignored the warnings in the threat report and the unit was shut down. According to the 2016 internal memo, the information in the threat report was pretty accurate as the use of illegal gaming houses increased drastically, while no charges were laid since 2011. The aftermaths of the unit’s closure perfectly reflect the warnings in the threat report.