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B.C. Casino Buy-in Limit Could Have Prevented Money Laundering

The Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia saw yet another batch of stories related to money laundering within the province this Friday. Former B.C. cabinet minister Kash Heed recently received limited participant status, giving him the right to as Fred Pinnock some questions linked to the latterโ€™s hearing earlier this month.

The last days of October saw the official start of more hearings before the Cullen Commission, aiming to shed more light on the gaming field of British Columbia. Over the past three weeks, the various executives and investigators have shared their stories. The first days of this month saw Mr. Pinnock highlight Mr. Heedโ€™s name in his conversation with Commissioner Austin Cullen.

Cullen Commission

Fred Pinnock, former commander of British Columbiaโ€™s anti-illegal gaming unit, revealed a private conversation dating back to 2009. It alleged that Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for gambling back in 2009, demonstrated a rather revenue-oriented attitude towards gambling in British Columbia. Mr. Pinnock pointed out that the comment was made by then-solicitor general Kash Heed, reflecting his own opinion on the subject.

Mr. Heed pointed out back then that the gaming revenue was more important for the minister than battling money laundering and criminal activities. Mr. Pinnock also made it clear that back in the days, Mr. Heed was concerned that then-Minister Coleman had senior RCMP officers following his orders and this negatively impacted the gambling field in the region. The allegations that organized crime at casinos is something the minister was aware of at the time triggered an immediate response.

Mr. Heed requested a participant status in the hearing. This will give him the opportunity to cross-examine Mr. Pinnock in relation to his previous statements. The Cullen Commission gave him the right to do so for 90 minutes and this conversation is about to take place this week. Projections are that it will bring more clarity to the overall situation.

Fred Pinnock

Larry Vander Graaf, former Executive Director of the B.C. Gaming Policy Branch, testified this Friday before the Cullen Commission. He said that British Columbia Lottery Corporation should have implemented anti-money laundering measures even before 2010, back in the days when organized crime was continuously targeting casino venues across the province. Cash buy-ins are the factor that ended up influencing the field the most.

A restriction on the amount of money casino patrons were allowed to bring into the gambling venue might have had a positive impact on the overall condition of the gambling field in British Columbia. Mr. Vander Graaf also said that this could have prevented the substantial amount of money laundered through casinos over the past decade. Back when he was overseeing the policy branch, he proposed a CA$3,000 cap on the cash buy-ins at casinos.

It was supposed to affect the players introducing CA$20 bills to the casino locations, but it never received a green light. British Columbia Lottery Corporation lawyer Bill Smart said that Las Vegas casino hotspots commenced limiting suspicious cash in 2014 and Mr. Vander Graaf might have been before his time.