British Columbia

'Political will' needed to stop money laundering in casinos, former investigator says

Ed Rampone, the former director of casino investigations with the B.C. Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, said although a 2016 report has prompted renewed interest in the matter, money laundering through casinos is a perennial challenge.

Buried 2016 report revealed potential money laundering at Lower Mainland casinos

The B.C. government has appointed an independent expert to look into potential money laundering in Lower Mainland casinos after a shelved 2016 report emerged. (CBC)

The B.C. government has launched an investigation into potential money laundering through casinos, but a former casino investigator says much more political willpower is needed to tackle the problem. 

Ed Rampone was the director of casino investigations with the B.C. Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch between 2007 and 2009, and he said money laundering through casinos is a perennial challenge that has yet to be adequately addressed.

"First and foremost is the lack of political will," Rampone told Rick Cluff, host of CBC's The Early Edition

"You are leaving the ethical decision to refuse that money to a corporation whose business it is to make money from gaming."

A 2016 report on the issue was commissioned by the previous B.C. Liberal government, but was not publicly released until last week. It flagged suspicious cash transactions at gaming facilities across the Lower Mainland, such as the $13.5 million in $20 bills accepted at Richmond's River Rock casino in July 2015.

Since the report's existence was revealed, Attorney General David Eby announced that an independent expert will look into the concerns it raised.

'Same old story'

Rampone said little has been accomplished in the last decade since he was working for the province.

"It's the same old story and obviously not much has been done to correct the matter," he said.  

Casinos are required to file a one-page report to the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch when confronted with suspicious money. Most comply within 24 hours, but they rarely refuse to accept the money or call the police, Rampone said.

"It's probably not good for business to pull a heavy gambler from a table in the casino and have a couple of uniformed, or even plainclothed, officers come and take that person out," he said.

Casinos' responsibility

Better enforcement is one solution, but casinos also have a big role in tackling money laundering, Rampone said.

"If you walked into any financial institutions with a duffel bag of money, never mind a million dollars or a hundred thousand dollars or whatever in cash, and said 'I'm here to deposit this,' you would not get very far," he said. "Financial institutions refuse that money, so obviously the casinos would have the same option."

Rampone urged casinos and other institutions to keep in mind that they can't win by facilitating money laundering.

"Money laundering doesn't profit anyone but the criminals because that money is not being brought in to be lost at the casinos. It's brought in to be coloured up or to be placed in a financial institution after receipt of a cheque to legitimize it," he said.

With files from The Early Edition