Richmond's River Rock Casino attracts as many as 10,000 people a day, and some loan sharks. ((CBC))

The head of the RichmondRCMP says it's difficult to prosecute loan sharks at the city's popular River Rock Casino, which attracts up to 10,000 customers a day.

The loan sharks offer gamblers loans at rates as high as 20 per cent a day.

Thirty-four people have been banned from River Rock this year for offering the illegal loans, butno charges have been laid.

Richmond RCMP Supt. Ward Clapham says the problem is that victims don't ask the police for help when things go wrong.

"Neither the victim or the accused are going to be coming running to the police to tell us about their illegal activities," he said. "We usually find out about it through other crimes, being an extortion or a kidnapping complaint."


RCMP Supt. Ward Clapham says many victims of loan sharks are reluctant to go to the police. ((CBC))

So far this year, the RCMP say they have investigated three cases of kidnapping and extortion linked to gambling debts in Richmond. However the Crown has laid charges in only one case.

Gamblers afraid of retaliation: counsellor

Irene Tang, a problem gambling counsellor with Family Services of Greater Vancouver, says many victims don't believe police can protect them from the sharks.

"I think the families wonder how much the police could do, how far the protection could be covered, whether the loan sharks will know and retaliate and do some horrible things to the family and the gambler."

Tang says she has seen people flee the country to avoid the loan sharks, while others have been forced into prostitution, drug dealing and credit card fraud to pay off their debts.

The RCMP say they have formed a task force with the city,the River Rock Casino andthe B.C. Lottery Corporation looking for ways to crack down on loan sharking.