Delta council is asking the provincial and federal governments to look at implementing a cashless gaming system in order to thwart money laundering in casinos.
At the council meeting on Monday, March 11, mayor and council unanimously endorsed a staff recommendation asking for both levels of government to join Delta in a joint review of cashless casino systems to assess their effectiveness in preventing money laundering. According to staff, recent reports of money laundering at Vancouver area casinos have “been receiving considerable attention in B.C., particularly following the release of the Peter German report, Dirty Money, in 2018.” The issue is of particular concern in Delta with the new casino set to open in Ladner by mid-2020.
In his election campaign for mayor last October, Delta mayor George Harvie promised that if elected he would work with British Columbia’s attorney general to introduce a cashless system at the Gateway casino coming to Delta. At the time, he cited New Zealand as an example where players have card and ticket-based options to gamble responsibly.
“I don’t see anything happening at the provincial level, despite the fact that letters were written … and we did receive back from the province, saying that they were working on the German report implementation,” Coun. Lois Jackson said at council, referring to correspondence from mayor and council to Attorney General David Eby regarding the implementation of German’s recommendations.
“However, I don’t see anything that’s really addressed the gut concern of the majority of people as to what is happening both federally and provincially, and how this is going to be incorporated. I don’t have a lot of comfort here.”
Jackson brought up Delta police chief Neil Dubord’s response to previous council queries regarding casino-related crime at the soon-to-be-built Delta gaming facility. Dubord’s memo went over casino-related crime rate studies from a number of Canadian cities, but did not specifically address money laundering.
He used examples from York, Hamilton, Windsor and Edmonton to show casinos do not result in a significant uptick in crime, adding that “there is little concern regarding local crime increases in Delta” pertaining to the new casino coming soon to the former Delta Town & Country Inn site.
Dubord has previously said that the Delta Police Department does not have the capacity in terms of personnel and other assets to investigate and prevent financial fraud at casinos. In his memo, he wrote that it is the provincial government’s responsibility to “create laws and regulations to mitigate financial fraud” and the federal government’s task to prosecute it.
In his 247-page report, German said that well over $100 million is believed to have been laundered through B.C.’s casinos and he gave the provincial government 48 recommendations on how to address money laundering at legal gaming establishments.
As of January 2018, casino operators have to declare the sources of any buy-ins of more than $10,000 by identifying whose money it is. The British Columbia Lottery Corporation also requires that all players must provide an original receipt from their financial institution “as proof of source of funds.”
One solution to curb laundering city staff recommended in their report is a card-based system which does not use cash, arguing the system has shown benefits “around the world” including financial transparency, ease of use, and higher degree of personal safety.
“Cashless systems require an account that is linked to the individual player whose identity has been verified,” the Delta staff report explains.
“This means that gambling data can be tracked and money transactions are transparent, thereby limiting opportunities for crime such as money laundering. Funds can be moved electronically between the account and all gaming devices in the casino.”
To discourage “problem gaming,” the report also suggests additional features for cards, such as limits on playing time and the amount of money used, gaming activity statements, and an exclusion option in which a player can block playing during certain times or days.
In addition to an intergovernmental review of a cashless system, councillors also endorsed a resolution for the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities “to generate local government support and advocacy for senior governments to take stronger action” for the prevention of casino-related money laundering.
— with files from James Smith