BC Face-Palms over 100k High Stakes Baccarat at BC Casinos

BCLC approved high limit baccarat tables at River Rock Casino amidst revelations of money-laundering.

BCLC approved High Limit Baccarat Tables amidst Money-Laundering Scandal

It’s been an entire year now that British Columbia has been reeling over the revelation of mass money laundering through BC casinos. The fact that the scandal remains a highlight of regular news symbolizes just how severe the problem was, and every week it seems more evidence comes to light.

The situation revolves largely around Mainland Chinese VIPs laundering money through the province’s casinos – namely the River Rock Casino in Richmond. It’s been going on for at least a decade now, with hundreds of millions – possibly even billions – in dirty cash cycling through the casino’s cashier cages.

And now, to make matters even more brow-raising, it’s been discovered that the British Columbia Lottery Corp (BCLC) – the Crown Corporation that’s responsible for regulating the gambling industry in BC, and not-so-coincidentally accused of intentionally allowing it to happen – continually approved a vast increase in high stakes baccarat tables at both River Rock Casino and the Edgewater Casino in Vancouver.

BCLC Approved High Limit Baccarat Tables for Chinese New Year

You read that headline right… Let’s briefly revisit a few of those details. Millions of dollars were laundered through BC casino over 9+ years by Chinese high-rollers in association with organized crime. BCLC is under intense investigation and scrutiny for intentionally turning the other cheek. BCLC repeatedly increased limits for high stakes baccarat players during Chinese New Year – a time when VIPs are known to travel from China to casinos all over the world to celebrate their heritage by placing extravagant wagers on their culture’s historically favorite game of baccarat.

It wasn’t a nominal increase in stakes, either. BC casinos are normally allowed to accept stakes of up to $5,000 per play; no higher. Mot of them cap the limits at $100. But in anticipation of this special tourism-driven holiday, the province’s finance ministry decided it was appropriate to intervene, giving their two largest casinos, River Rock and Edgwater, permission to boost the stakes limit to as high as $100,000 per bet.

The next obvious question; how do the ministry and lottery regulators defend their actions? The same way they always do, by declaring their commitment to generate revenue for the province and host communities.

And the Plot Thickens…

Sam Cooper of Global News writes:

In May 2015, then-finance minister Mike de Jong said in B.C.’s legislature that the controversial “senior-level intervention” was made “in the public interest” in order to maximize casino revenue.”

Documents show that, since 2010, the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch (GPEB) warned the BCLC not to accept large cash transactions from Chinese VIPs; that suspicion of money-laundering was a serious issue. Not only did those warnings go ignored, the GPEB’s Executive Director and Senior Director of Investigations – the two who sounded the alarms the loudest in those days – were dismissed with no explanation.

As the years went by, BC’s gaming revenue continued to increase to all new heights – particularly around Chinese New Year when the high limit baccarat tables received their annual 6-figure increase.

Light finally began shining on the situation in late 2014, when GPEB officials again complained to BCLC about large, suspicious cash transactions; literally bags of cash, almost all $20 bills, being accepted by River Rock cashiers on a nightly basis.

Documents show that BCLC responded by stating their belief that the transactions were tied to high stakes baccarat players and an organized crime suspect from Richmond. This lead to an investigative probe in 2015 – one that was ongoing while BCLC CEO Jim Lightbody announced projections of more than $1.2 billion in annual gaming revenue, “due to an increase in high-limit table revenue.”

Fast-forward a few more years to April 2018, when the newly appointed Attorney General David Eby received Peter German’s now-famous report, revealing the extent of money laundering that had been going on for so many years. And now here we are, one year later, still learning new and shocking details of just how deep the rabbit hole goes. It’s no wonder the people of British Columbia have lost faith in the leadership system that was meant to protect them, demanding a public inquiry into provincial corruption surrounding the money laundering scandal.

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