The Canadian province of British Columbia has been all over news headlines lately thanks to its years-long spate of money laundering at local casinos. Now that investigations are revealing more information about the crimes, it has been made clear that the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) was given the green light to increase its high roller bet limits to $100,000 in the past – at around the same time that Asian gamblers began expressing renewed interest in provincial casinos.
The Chinese New Year is a celebrated calendar date for thousands of Asians, who use the holiday as an opportunity to travel abroad and enjoy real money gambling overseas. This trend is apparent in Macau when the week-long celebrations are accompanied by an upswing in gaming revenues for nearly all of the city’s gambling establishments. Canada too witnesses surges in gaming interest around this time, especially by high rollers, and this is something that the local Finance Ministry has long been aware of.
It recently came to light that around the time of these celebrations, the BCLC made the announcement that it would be increasing its baccarat limits across all of its provincial casinos from $5,000 to a far greater $100,000 per round. Various senior officials of the BC government approved the move, as they expected it to significantly increase gaming revenues for the region.
The larger the revenue stream, the higher the regular allocations to the host communities of local casinos. This, in turn, fuels community development, and at the time, regulators considered the move to be a viable option for long-term operation. Taking advantage of VIP players with thousands to spend may have been a win-win situation for all involved, if it had not been for the money laundering allegations and warning flags that were already being raised by local watchdogs.
Since as far back as 2010, former Senior Director of Investigations with the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch Joe Schalk and Executive Director of GPEB Larry Vander Graaf had been raising concerns about money laundering and suspicious transactions happening at BC gaming venues. The two were later dismissed without explanation. In response to those concerns, the BCLC seemingly encouraged Chinese VIPs to gamble with more cash instead – and more specifically, with more $20 bills.
The information about attempted assistance from senior politicians came to light in 2015 thanks to current BC Attorney-General David Eby, who has been closely involved in the investigations at hand. Former BCLC Chief Executive Officer Michael Greydon has been pinned as the main supporter of the stake increase, which has led to an increasing number of provincial residents losing their faith in the organization and demanding further public inquiry into the money laundering epidemic.