A Coincidence, Or More? Possible Money Laundering Uncovered in Canadian Casinos
Something doesn’t seem right in the casinos of British Columbia.
It came to light that in B.C., a staggeringly large number of casino patrons, specifically high-rollers, identify themselves as a housewife or a student. These are two occupations that aren’t notorious for bringing in the big bucks, and yet they have reportedly spent millions of dollars in B.C. casinos.
So, the Attorney-General and Gaming Authority decided to do some digging. They chose a casino, in this case the River Rock Casino in Richmond, B.C., and audited a year’s worth of their books.
They were hoping to uncover patterns and signs that point to organized crime groups money laundering under the guise of being a high-stakes gambler just hoping to win big.
The ‘Vancouver Model’
But all this hasn’t come out of nowhere. Late last year, the Attorney-General began his crackdown on money laundering schemes in Vancouver casinos by requiring high-rollers to state the source of their gambling funds if it totals more than $10,000. In addition, the casinos were required to file a “source of funds declaration”, which includes the players name, account info, and what they say is the source of their money.
If two consecutive transactions are made over $10,000, the player is flagged and their financial information and declared source of funds is looked at under a microscope to determine the validity of their claim, and if the money is suspicious in any way.
This new initiative, analyzing and flagging a year’s worth of River Rock’s transactions, is just the key to a bigger picture, and an important one, at that.
In the newest report that takes a closer look at the transactions made by supposed students and housewives, the first bets flagged are the ones that listed the largest amount of cash being brought in by these gamblers. One student flagged brought in close to a million dollars over the course of the year.
You may be saying, ‘maybe he’s just rich’, and of course that may be true, but B.C. Attorney General David Eby thinks differently. He said in an interview, “The conspicuous thing about students and housewives is that these are groups of people who don’t have any source of income.”
Though, a full-time student COULD squeeze in a part-time job, working maybe 30-hours a week making minimum wage. But the $11.35 minimum wage multiplied by 30 hours comes out to around $340 CAD per week. After any taxes that are taken out, it could be rounded down to $300 per week.
Let’s say this student lives in that town all year round, and is able to keep that job during school breaks. That brings us to 52 weeks of work total, maybe taking away 2 weeks for holidays and vacations. So, 50 weeks multiplied by the estimated $300 per week in wages comes out to a clean $15,000 a year.
But we still haven’t accounted for food, rent, entertainment, transportation, or putting money away to pay back any student loans.
So, as hard to imagine an average student spending almost a million dollars in a casino over the course of a year was, it’s even harder to imagine now.
Of course, there are special circumstances and different possibilities as to how a student could afford to spend that much, but it does seem like something strange could be happening.
But the digging didn’t stop there. They went all the way back to 2015, and found that in that
year, the high-spender’s most reported occupation was in real estate. And the 135 real estate high-rollers spent a combined eyebrow raising $53 million dollars that year.
Again, flexing my math skills, if each gambler split this total evenly between them, it would amount to about $2.5 million each. For an average B.C. real estate agent that makes around $44,000 a year, it seems a little out of reach.
A Worldwide Operation
The study even looked at the companies the high-stakes patrons listed as their employers to see if they would conceivably be able to provide the income disclosed by the gamblers, but they found that most of those companies are based in China and they were not able to make a conclusive finding on their financial abilities.
An Ongoing Fight
While this information looks semi-random and doesn’t point to anything specific yet, it seems to me that there are some patterns being uncovered by the British Columbian Attorney-General.
More connections are being made, and more security and compliance measures are being added to ensure that the casinos take further measures to find out exactly how the high-rollers are funding their gambling. This year, new anti-money laundering initiatives are being phased into the nation’s casinos contracts and service agreements, stating that they will start to impose fines on any casino that does not take every precaution and follow the new regulations to stamp out money laundering schemes.
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