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Staff at the Starlight Casino in New Westminster, B.C., reported several unsual transactions last summer to the B.C. Lottery Corporation. ((CBC))

The B.C. government says it is prepared to tighten regulations to prevent exploitation of casinos by organized crime, says the province's minister in charge of gaming.

Documents obtained by CBC News have revealed that $8 million in unusual transactions were reported to gaming authorities between May and August 2010 at some Lower Mainland casinos.

The RCMP, who were informed sometime after the transactions occurred, said they believed the 90-day spike in questionable transactions indicated the casinos had been targeted for money-laundering activity by organized-crime groups.

"The issue of whether or not a cash transaction should be reported as large or suspicious does deserve greater attention," said Rich Coleman in a release Friday. "And we are prepared to do just that," the minister added.

"We are also prepared to take steps to continue to enhance training so casino staff are better equipped to properly identify suspicious transactions and report them more quickly to police so that they can stop this type of criminal activity."  

The documents showed transactions involving as much $1.2 million were taking place regularly during the 90-day period.

Casino chip control 

In some cases, patrons brought bags stuffed with $20- and $50-bills into casinos and exchanged them for gambling chips, which they would later exchange again at the casino for cash.

Police told CBC News that the exchanges could help hide profits from illegal activities like the drug trade.

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Rich Coleman, B.C.'s minister in charge of gaming, says the province will look at tightening regulations to prevent organized crime exploitation of the province's casinos. ((CBC) )

There is also concern that gambling chips — which are issued in denominations up to $5,000 — were, in effect, becoming a form of currency for gangsters.

Although the transfer of chips from one person to another is prohibited, and reported by casino staff when detected, it is not illegal to take chips out of a casino, after which their use can be virtually impossible to trace.

Coleman said the government would examine measures, "preventing patrons from redeeming casino chips from any facility other than where they were initially purchased."

"The B.C. Lottery Corporation and our casino industry are fully committed to supporting anti-money laundering initiatives and to complying with federal regulations," the minister said.