Industry Reports

Cullen Commission Hears More River Rock Casino Details

The Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia has dedicated this week to extensive detailed hearings shedding more light on the gambling field of British Columbia throughout the years. Gord Friesen, British Columbia Lottery Corporation former Manager of Investigations was questioned this Wednesday in relation to a previous investigation into River Rock Casino in Richmond.

October 26 saw the official relaunch of hearings on the subject of money-laundering in British Columbia and the impact this practice has had on the local gambling scene. Over the past few days, insiders have provided their insights on the subject and this Wednesday saw yet another batch of those coming from the former Manager of Investigations.

Hearings this Week

The Crown corporation may have turned a blind eye on reports of ongoing illegal operation on the premises of the casino venue. Ross Alderson, one of the investigators probing the subject back in 2011 sent multiple warnings to the manager. He was sending emails indicating to his superiors that the casino hotspot might be involved in money laundering of sorts.

Mr. Alderson pointed out in his emails that he believed that River Rock Casino staff members have been enabling money laundering, making it easier for high rollers to wash their cash while gambling. Steering clear of suspicious transaction reports might have also been one of their practices taking place on a daily basis. The 2011 investigation came across these suspicions, prompting a warning. However, they failed to trigger the response needed.

Back then, Mr. Friesen saw no reason for the probe to continue, as he pointed out in a response email. He made it clear that the team of investigators was not likely to see anyone confessing to wrongdoing. At the time, River Rock Casino Richmond was sending reports only when it comes to cash transactions exceeding the CA$50,000 mark. Casino staff members were believed to advise their players to make transactions below this threshold.


Mr. Alderson pointed out back then that some casino patrons often make transactions amounting to CA$49,960 or CA$49,980 all in CA$20 bills. This practice has been previously discussed as a common one in British Columbia’s gambling venues, as Chinese high rollers were benefitting from local loan sharks’ help and entering the casinos with duffel bags filled with cash.

A lawyer for British Columbia’s gaming enforcement branch questioned Mr. Friesen on the subject, revealing that the latter was aware that this is a violation of the rules set by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada. Mr. Friesen also disagreed with Mike Hiller another investigator who warned that casinos are used as laundromats. Back then, Mr. Friesen said that the British Columbia Lottery Corporation had no information on suspicious cash transactions.

Cases of Vancouver players bringing up to CA$1,000,000 in CA$20 bills quickly became viral in the area after 2010, but Mr. Friesen pointed out this Wednesday that he did not believe that these individuals were laundering money at the time. BCLC’s Assistant Manager of Security John Karlovcec is also scheduled to testify this week, providing more insights.