Casino News

BCLC Swelled VIP Baccarat Limits despite Watchdog Money Laundering Concerns

British Columbia has one hot topic over the past few months and that is the money laundering issues that emerged following extensive investigation throughout the province. As more information is revealed, it became clear that in the past British Columbia Lottery Corporation received a green light to swell high-roller betting limits to CA$100,000 around the time of the year when Asians express increased interest towards gambling.

The Chinese New Year is a special time when thousands of Asians take a break and devote their time to traveling abroad, sometimes overseas and gambling. This is a trend visible in Macau when the weeklong celebrations are accompanied by a surge in gaming revenue for all venues. Canada also witnesses surge in gaming interest over that time of the year especially when it comes to high rollers, something that the Finance Ministry was aware of.

GPEB Warned about Suspicious Transactions

It was recently revealed that around the period of celebrations the provincial lottery corporation received the permission to increase baccarat limits across its casino venues in British Columbia from CA$5,000 to the six-figure amount per hand. The move came with the approval of senior-level officials of the local government and the reasoning behind it was that this would increase gaming revenue in the region.

The bigger the revenue, the larger the regular allocations to host communities of the casino venues. This, in turn, boosts the community development down the road and at the time it all seemed like a viable option of operation. Taking advantage of VIP casino patrons willing to pour thousands of Canadian dollars in the casino venues could have been a win-win situation if it was not for the money-laundering allegations and warnings coming from industry watchdogs.

In a sense, this happened despite previous information related to Chinese VIP players and suspicious behavior that they had demonstrated. In the light of recent events and revelations, people wonder whether local politicians purposefully turned a blind eye to washing dirty cash in British Columbia gambling venues. May 2015 saw then-Finance Minister Mike de Jong claim that the move would have a positive impact in the long run on a provincial level.

B.C. Officials Facilitated the Process

Ever since 2010, Joe Schalk, former Senior Director of Investigations with the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch and Larry Vander Graaf, Executive Director of GPEB have been sounding the alarm about money laundering concerns and suspicious transactions happening in casino venues. Later the two of them were dismissed without an explanation. In response to the concerns, BCLC supposedly explained the situation with the personal preferences of Chinese high rollers to gamble with more cash, preferably in CA$20 bills.

This of the reasoning the corporation provided and the conversations with the industry watchdog have been documented. River Rock Casino in Richmond and Edgewater Casino in Vancouver were targeted as the locations that simply must see an increase of the baccarat limits. Coincidentally, River Rock Casino is considered the gaming hub that allegedly enabled millions of Canadian dollars to be washed.

The information about help from senior politicians was unveiled in 2015 by current British Columbia Attorney-General David Eby, closely involved in the development of events. Former BCLC Chief Executive Officer Michael Graydon was the main supporter of this increase. In the light of these revelations, an increasing number of British Columbians report losing faith in the corporation and demand a public inquiry on money laundering.