British Columbia

B.C. moves to control casino chips

B.C. casino chips can no longer go from one casino to another as the government tries to curb one method of money laundering.
B.C. casino chips can no longer go from one casino to another as the government tries to curb one method of money laundering.

The new rule came into effect Monday, B.C. Solicitor General Rich Coleman told Mark Forsythe, host of CBC Radio One's B.C. Almanac.

"Chips can no longer go from one casino to another. … The B.C. Lottery Corp. thought that they could implement that this week," Coleman said.

"However, we still — even with chips coming into casinos — we've always had the policy that those chips have to come from a verified win, so the verified win has to come from whatever location those chips have come from."

The announcement came after a CBC investigation revealed a trend of suspicious activity and transactions in casinos.

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

The RCMP, who were informed some time 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 documents showed transactions involving as much $1.2 million were taking place regularly during the 90-day period.

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

Police raised concerns the exchanges could help hide profits from illegal activities, and suggested gambling chips were becoming a form of currency among gangsters.

'No fail-proof system'

However, Coleman attempted to minimize the findings in the documents, saying many of those large cash transactions are legitimate.

"Sometimes, you'll find that it's one individual that gambles a lot in the casinos because we do have some customers who like to deal in cash that are large Asian customers, and we have noticed an influx of some Asian customers into our casinos since the Olympics," Coleman said.

Because many of the large transactions are valid, Coleman said, the province has no plans to introduce cash transaction limits at B.C. casinos.

"We have very high standards … in place between B.C.'s casinos and the reporting on large cash transactions, probably the best in Canada, and it's probably as good as anybody," he said.

"However … when a story like this breaks, you want to make sure that there's nowhere else you can improve on it, so you want to go back and sit down with your folks."

Coleman said he is in the process of consulting with police and the B.C. Lottery Corp. to identify areas that need improvement.

But he said no system is perfect.

"You'll never know 100 per cent, all the time," Coleman said. "There's no fail-proof system with regards to this, but there's certainly the checks and balances in place, and I'm satisfied that we're doing as good a job as anybody else."