OUR VIEW: Fixing casino money laundering in B.C. isn’t enough

When the BC Liberals were first elected to run the provincial government in 2001, one of their campaign planks was to “stop expansion” of gambling because of its associated problems.

Once in power, however, that didn’t happen. Gambling has expanded at a furious pace in the years since, with several new casinos built, as well as gaming centres that mix bingo and slot machines. The reason, of course, is money. Casinos generate huge profits and the province gets a big, wet, juicy slice.

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Whether people should be for or against casinos is not the point of this editorial – it’s how these casinos have been run in B.C. that is the problem.

As outlined in a 247-page report written by a former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German, our province’s casinos have been used by organized crime to launder dirty money.

“For many years, Lower Mainland casinos unwittingly served as laundromats for the proceeds of organized crime,” German said.

It’s the “unwittingly” comment that we’re not so sure about. The report details the so-called “Vancouver model,” where organized crime lenders used mostly gamblers from China to take bags of dirty $20 bills to play in our local casinos, leaving with now-clean money that was later used to buy vast amounts of Metro Vancouver real estate.

These purchases then drove up the price of our local real estate.

In releasing the report, B.C. Attorney General David Eby said the province will work to implement the report’s 48 recommendations to put a stop to the problem.

That’s good. So was commissioning the report to reveal the problem. But the people who turned a blind eye to the problem need to be held accountable for letting it happen. We don’t believe them when they say that a person bringing bags and bags of cash into a casino wasn’t suspicious.

The report details one incident at the Starlight Casino in New Westminster, when someone came in with $3.1 million in cash - including $2.6 million in bundled bricks of $20 bills carried in plastic bags.

Nope, nothing to see here, folks.

The BC Liberals were in power during this entire period, but when the report was released, the party sent out rookie MLA Jas Johal to face the music.

It wasn’t until later that BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson finally stepped forward to weakly say that it’s a “sad exercise” to blame previous governments – this from the party that screams “Fast Ferries!” every election cycle.

BC Liberal MLA Rich Coleman was the minister in charge of gambling and it took him days to finally give interviews. When he did, he had the gall to trot out the “no government is perfect” excuse.

We’re not asking for perfection. We’re asking that our province not be sold out for quick casino cash to fill provincial coffers, leaving regular folks to pay the price with unaffordable housing costs.

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