Finally British Columbia To Have Independent Gaming Regulator

Casinos in British Columbia may be in for even tighter scrutiny now that the provincial government is dividing the enforcement arm of the casino monopoly from its operating side.

BC Attorney General David Eby announced plans for a new Independent Gambling Control Office (IGCO) to be formed by spring 2021 on Thursday. The IGCO will replace the Gaming Policy & Enforcement Branch (GPEB), the body that is currently toothless to keep tabs on the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), the government agency that controls the gambling sector in the province.

Previously, the GPEB had a dual role in developing and enforcing gaming laws while consulting the government on business issues related to gaming at the same time. That’s troublesome, as BCLC is a major contributor to the province’s budget–over C$ 1.4b (US$ 1.07b) in fiscal 2018-19–and turning regulatory reins too tight can have a negative impact on the ability of government to pay for stuff.

In Peter German’s study on the money laundering scandal that engulfed the province’s land-based casinos a few years ago, this dual position was flagged as a significant conflict of interest. German’s report recommended the establishment of a truly independent regulator with “the power to enforce regulations against the most significant entity in B.C.’s gaming environment.” It remains to be seen whether the IGCO will be more able to rein in the excesses of BCLC. Indeed, however ‘independent’ they might seem, IGCO leaders will still receive a paycheck from the government, and with BC’s largest casinos struggling under their new requirements for’ source of funds,’ how long before someone suggests, you know, lightening up a little?

Earlier this week, the Financial Transactions and Report Analysis Center of Canada (FINTRAC) issued an operational alert regarding the use of bank draughts by so-called ‘ money mules ‘ at BC casinos, defined as ‘an individual who, wittingly or unwittingly, transfers or transports proceeds of crime on behalf of a criminal organisation or money launderer.’

FINTRAC, which has been concerned for years with the relatively lax anti-money laundering enforcement at BC casinos, warned operators to be on watch for customers who deposit a “high volume” of bank draughts into their casino accounts or routinely use bank draughts for buy-ins.

It also has a number of other recommendations for all casinos to follow, not just those in BC. It will be up to the IGCO to tell us whether or not the casinos of BC–the day-to-day operation of which BCLC farms out to private firms like the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation–are actually changing their wicked ways.