CBC Investigates

Former River Rock Casino dealers caught in raid on suspected illegal gaming house

B.C.'s anti-gang agency says it advised the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch about two former River Rock Casino dealers arrested in a raid on a suspected illegal gaming house in Richmond last spring.

Great Canadian Gaming Corporation says "zero tolerance" for staff found in illegal gaming facilities

Two River Rock Casino employees were among 11 people arrested at what police suspect was an illegal gaming house in Richmond last spring. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

B.C.'s anti-gang agency informed the province's Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch about the presence of two former River Rock Casino dealers found in a raid on an illegal gaming house in Richmond last spring.

The women, who were both registered gaming workers, were arrested and released along with nine other people, including three men who claimed to be professional poker players and the owner of a wholesale business in China.

The joint investigation between the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit and Richmond RCMP happened in March, but was only recently publicly disclosed in a search warrant obtained by CBC.

Police say no criminal charges were recommended.

'Zero tolerance'

Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, which owns River Rock Casino, said the two women had been dealers at the casino but were not casino employees at the time of the raid.

"Great Canadian has zero tolerance for any of our staff having any relationship with an illegal facility, as do our regulators, and (we would) take immediate action against anyone found to be engaged in that type of activity, including termination," Chief operating officer Terrance Doyle said in a statement.

"Great Canadian has been proactive in sharing our concerns about this issue with law enforcement agencies, including with respect to allegations that casino workers from legal casinos may be working in illegal facilities."

The investigation provides a window into a problem flagged by former RCMP Deputy Commissioner Peter German in his recent report on money laundering in B.C. casinos, Dirty Money.

Former RCMP Deputy Commissioner Peter German stands with B.C. Attorney General David Eby at the release of German's report into money laundering. (Yvette Brend/CBC)

German cited an RCMP briefing note about organized crime threats related to casinos and illegal gaming houses throughout the Lower Mainland.

"Illegal gambling dens are proving to be highly profitable, and their insulated nature allows them to be relatively low-risk criminal investments," the note read.

'Stacks of gaming chips'

According to the documents sworn to obtain the search warrant, the investigation centred around a rental space above an auto-repair business. The man who rented the space said he was going to use it for storage.

Neighbours complained about "fancy cars" and "dressed-up" women arriving at the location in the middle of the night.

The organized crime unit kept an eye on the situation for several months before deciding to enter the business at 3 a.m. on March 14.

According to the search warrant, RCMP observed people betting with "stacks of gaming chips" when they raided the location. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

"Members observed several people sitting around a gaming table and were actively involved in betting with stacks of gaming chips in front of them," the search warrant says.

"Members continued to inspect the business, walked into a separate room and observed tool cabinets with gaming chips inside of it, a large television believed to be connected to the surveillance cameras over the tables and a black backpack which was open and had a large amount of cash inside it."

Money to buy a dog

According to the court documents, police found a total of $36,260 in cash and $15,555 in cheques.

They arrested and searched four women and seven men.

One of the former River Rock employees was "seated in the centre right of the table and is believed to be the dealer." The other had $160 in cash and a blank cheque for $1,375. 

One of the men who claimed to be a professional poker player had $11,805 in stacked cash as well as memberships for casinos in Las Vegas.

Another had three iPhones and a stack of 94 $100 bills.

According to a search warrant, two of the women arrested in what police believed to be an illegal gaming house were carded River Rock Casino employees. (CBC)

One man said he was a real estate property owner. A woman said she was trying to win enough money to buy a dog.

A man who claimed to be an IT consultant said he was invited by one of the two former casino employees.

"He further stated that he met her on an 'online poker strategies club' and that he has seen her at the casino a couple of times," the warrant says.

'Insufficient evidence was obtained'

An exhibit flowchart filed as part of the court documentation says police seized five poker tables and a Mahjong table along with a blue notebook detailing "wagers and payouts".

But Richmond RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Dennis Hwang told the CBC "insufficient evidence was obtained" to result in a charge.

The German report noted difficulties in enforcement when it comes to illegal gaming operation, in part because access is restricted to "tightly-knit organized crime cells and controlled by invitation only."

"Enforcement, when it does take place, has limited impact and suggests there is capacity for expansion," German's report said, citing RCMP. 

In a statement, the Ministry of the Attorney General said an allegation that a registered gaming worker was working in an illegal casino would prompt an investigation by the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch's deputy registrar.

Employees have the right to reply to penalties which can include the cancellation of registration if an accused is found to be "a detriment to the integrity or lawful conduct or management of gaming."

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story said the two women were River Rock casino employees at the time of the raid. Great Canadian Gaming said it learned, subsequent to the story's publication, that the women were actually former dealers and not current employees at the time.
    Oct 02, 2018 3:46 PM PT