Big-money gamblers face new scrutiny at British Columbia casinos

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - High-rolling gamblers will face more stringent anti-money-laundering standards in British Columbia casinos, the Canadian province said on Tuesday, as it unveiled the first set of recommendations from a review of its casino sector.

Parq casino in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Ben Nelms

Gamblers wanting to deposit cash or bonds worth C$10,000 or more will now need to provide identification and proof of their source of funds, including details on their bank and the account from which the money is sourced, the province said. Two consecutive large transactions will trigger added scrutiny.

Regulators will also be placed onsite to provide the “increased vigilance” needed to ensure anti-money laundering protocols are followed, it said.

An internal government report, commissioned by the previous Liberal government and released in September by the current NDP government, found high-risk cash transactions taking place at a Vancouver-area casino popular with “high roller Asian VIP clients.”

Media reports have noted similar issues at other Vancouver-area casinos, in many cases tying the suspicious funds to the West Coast city’s runaway housing market.

“Our government has made clear the urgency around addressing issues of money-laundering at B.C. casinos, and we will ensure these first two recommendations are not only implemented as soon as possible, but enforced on the ground,” British Columbia Attorney General David Eby said in a statement.

He later told reporters that some details still need to be worked out and noted the regulator, the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, will need to hire more staff to fill casino roles, particularly people with Mandarin language skills.

The recommendations unveiled on Tuesday are the first from investigator Peter German, a former deputy commissioner with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who will provide his final report to the provincial government by the end of March 2018.

Eby said it is possible that the recommendations could impact gaming revenues in the province, but that it was a price the government was willing to pay to “ensure that British Columbians have confidence that the proceeds of crime are not flowing through B.C. casinos.”

The province’s commercial gambling revenues, excluding horse racing, topped C$2.9 billion ($2.3 billion) in 2014-15, according to government data.

Reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by David Gregorio and Rosalba O’Brien