Loan sharks feeding at River Rock: B.C. Lottery Corp.

There is growing concern that Lower Mainland's most popular gambling facility, the River Rock Casino in Richmond, has become a major attraction for loan sharks.

There is growing concern that the most popular gambling facilityin B.C.'s Lower Mainland — the River Rock Casino in Richmond — has become a major attraction for loan sharks.

Of the 56 people banned this year fromcasinos in the province for offering illegal loans, 34 were caught at River Rock, according to the B.C. Lottery Corp.

Richmond Coun. Rob Howard saidhe's not surprised that loan sharks are preying on gamblers atthe riverfront casino but is surprised at how quickly the problem has grown.

"It's just in the last month that there seem to have been a wave of incidences," he told CBC News on Monday.

Richmond RCMP Supt. Ward Clapman said the casino maybe the victim of its own success.

"I'm not going to point the finger to the casino and say there is a direct cause and effect, but you have got to know that when you have a showpiece like the River Rock, that brings a lot of people together and a lot of money."

Clapham said his officers are working closely with casino security to crack down on the problem.

And Ward said the RCMP is also investigating incidents involving organized crime, extortion, kidnapping and even murderlinked to River Rock in the past year.