Casino deal flagged amid probe on laun­der­ing

Calgary Herald - - FINANCIAL POST - AL­LI­SON JONES

On­tario’s Op­po­si­tion is call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to halt a deal with a gam­ing com­pany that is fac­ing money laun­der­ing al­le­ga­tions in Bri­tish Columbia.

The B.C. gov­ern­ment has launched an in­de­pen­dent ex­pert’s re­view of the province’s poli­cies in the gam­bling in­dus­try af­ter con­cerns were raised about the pos­si­bil­ity of money laun­der­ing at the River Rock Casino in Rich­mond, B.C.

That casino is run by Great Cana­dian Gam­ing Corp., which the On­tario Lottery and Gam­ing Corp. se­lected in Au­gust — along with Brook­field Busi­ness Part­ners LP — to run fa­cil­i­ties at Wood­bine, slots at Ajax Downs and the Great Blue Heron Casino in the Mis­sis­saugas of Scu­gog Is­land First Na­tion.

On­tario Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Vic Fedeli said Mon­day the province should halt the deal while it gath­ers all the facts about the sit­u­a­tion in B.C.

“I think our main im­pe­tus is to en­sure in­tegrity in the in­dus­try,” he said. “We’re ask­ing them — halt right now while we gather the facts. I think that’s the pru­dent thing to be do­ing.”

Premier Kath­leen Wynne said OLG has strict anti-money laun­der­ing pro­vi­sions, but On­tario is watch­ing de­vel­op­ments in B.C.

“I think it raises ques­tions, which is why the min­is­ter has spo­ken with OLG and we will be pay­ing very close at­ten­tion to it,” she said.

Great Cana­dian Gam­ing said it has en­sured that reg­u­la­tory com­pli­ance pro­ce­dures are strictly fol­lowed, and it is com­mit­ted to pre­vent­ing il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties at all of its lo­ca­tions.

“Con­trary to sug­ges­tions oth­er­wise, to our knowl­edge our com­pany is not un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion in any ju­ris­dic­tion,” chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Ter­rance Doyle said in a state­ment. “Our em­ploy­ees fol­lowed all pro­ce­dures re­quired of them by BC Lottery Cor­po­ra­tion (BCLC), none of our em­ploy­ees are fac­ing charges, nor we do not be­lieve our com­pany’s ac­tions would give cause to ini­ti­ate any in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

OLG noted that Great Cana­dian Gam­ing is not un­der a crim­i­nal or reg­u­la­tory in­ves­ti­ga­tion in ei­ther province and is sat­is­fied the com­pany will op­er­ate the Greater Toronto Area fa­cil­i­ties re­spon­si­bly.

On­tario Fi­nance Min­is­ter Charles Sousa said it would be “to­tally in­ap­pro­pri­ate” for a min­is­ter such as him­self to get in­volved and ex­pressed con­fi­dence in OLG’s pro­cure­ment process.

“The Op­po­si­tion are in­fer­ring crim­i­nal­ity but that is not the case,” he said. “It’s a stretch to start to sug­gest that some­how the province of On­tario should re­tract from a le­git­i­mate op­er­a­tion and a le­git­i­mate con­tract be­cause of some in­fer­ence that hap­pened two or three years ago that is be­ing re­viewed un­der due process.”

B.C.’s at­tor­ney gen­eral has said he launched the probe af­ter read­ing a re­port about the casino ac­cept­ing $13.5 mil­lion in $20 bills in July 2015 that po­lice said could be pro­ceeds of crime in­volv­ing Asian VIP clients.

A July 2016 re­port com­mis­sioned by the province’s pre­vi­ous Lib­eral gov­ern­ment said sin­gle cash buy-ins in ex­cess of $500,000 with no known source of funds were ac­cepted at River Rock. Law en­force­ment in­tel­li­gence in­di­cated the money may have been “di­rect pro­ceeds of crime,” the re­port said.

The head of Great Cana­dian Gam­ing said it ini­tially de­tected sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity at the casino in 2012 and that its on­go­ing mon­i­tor­ing and re­port­ing to the B.C. Lottery Corp. was cru­cial to iden­ti­fy­ing the in­di­vid­u­als al­legedly in­volved.

In On­tario, Great Cana­dian Gam­ing and Brook­field won the exclusive right to op­er­ate the Toronto-area fa­cil­i­ties for a min­i­mum of 22 years. OLG said in its pro­cure­ment process that it was look­ing for up to 5,000 elec­tronic games and up to 400 gam­ing ta­bles for the Wood­bine fa­cil­ity in north­west Toronto, and the city of Toronto has granted con­di­tional ap­proval for such a casino.

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