BY MICHAEL SMYTH, THE PROVINCE
B.C. government says 105 people with suspected ties to organized crime have been banned from casinos.
More than 100 people have been banned from B.C. casinos over suspected links to organized crime, according to the B.C. Lottery Corp.
It’s the first time, to my knowledge, that this number has been publicly confirmed and comes as the government is suing a Salmon Arm manin an alleged casino money-laundering case.
The government announced a crackdown on rampant money laundering in casinos five years ago, but now the government says money laundering is still happening.
It makes you wonder if the problem is even bigger than the government is willing to admit.
According to the government’s lawsuit, B.C. casinos paid out more than $2 million last year to Michael Mancini.
The government says Mancini was using the casinos to launder drug money. Mancini denies it and says he’s just a lucky guy who won a lot of slot-machine jackpots.
The police stumbled on to the case when they stopped Mancini for suspected drunk driving and found cash, casino cheques and crack cocaine in his car.
Solicitor General Mike Morris said Monday traffic cops make big busts all the time.
“Our traffic police, right across this province, are our front-line resources that uncover all kinds of criminal activity,” Morris said. “We need them out there to continue doing that.”
Fair enough, but how many more suspected money-laundering rackets would have been busted if the government hadn’t scrapped a specialized police unit seven years ago?
The government shut down the Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team in 2009. The specialized unit had a budget of just $1 million — a number that dwarfs the amount the government spends trying to lure gamblers into its casinos.
“Keep in mind the savings here,” NDP critic David Eby told the legislature. “One dollar saved in policing for every $30 the B.C. Lottery Corp. spends on advertising.”
But now the government is hinting that a renewed police crackdown on casino money laundering is coming.
“We are now in the process of finalizing a co-ordinated approach to this question,” said Finance Minister Mike de Jong, adding that a new anti-money-laundering strategy is being developed with the RCMP.
De Jong refused to say how much money will be spent on this new effort, or if the budget will match the one spent on the integrated police team the government shut down.
Whatever the amount, it won’t be enough to retroactively catch criminals who have been haunting B.C. casinos for years.
According to the B.C. Lottery Corp., 105 people have been banned from B.C. casinos over suspected ties to organized crime. With the amount of dirty money sloshing around out there, the number seems low.
The government, though, is making a killing on casino profits, making it reasonable to wonder whether the government cares more about casino cash than casino crime.