How Ontario casinos protect against money laundering and what B.C. can learn

A representative for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario explains how his province protects against money laundering casinos — and how B.C. can learn to do the same.

Police officers monitor Ontario casinos around the clock

A casino employee surveys bundles of $20 bills in a photograph released by the B.C. attorney general's office as an illustration of money laundering. (B.C. attorney general)

People who have never set foot in a casino have learned a lot about money laundering in recent days

Dirty Money, a report into money laundering released last week and authored by former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German revealed how B.C. casinos were used to launder an estimated $100 million in dirty money from opioid trafficking and other illicit sources.

The report found criminals took advantage of weaknesses in the regulation and management of the B.C. casino industry.

And it pointed to the province of Ontario as a better model for keeping dirty money out of casinos.

Ray Kahnert is a senior communications advisor for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. He sat down with Jason D'Souza, the host of CBC's All Points West to share how his province combats money laundering.

How is Ontario's system for casino regulation different from B.C.'s?

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is an independent Crown agency. They report to the Ontario attorney general. We have the legislation in place to give us authority.

Within the structure of the AGCO is a bureau of the provincial police who are able to respond immediately to any kind of illegal activity happening within a casino.

When casinos opened in Ontario ... the policy decision was made to establish a separate Crown agency responsible for regulation.

We take a modernized approach to the regulation of gaming in Ontario.

Is the Ontario model effective?

Because of our attachment with the Ontario Provincial Police, suspicious activity of any kind is being looked at in real time — and it's acted upon.

Patrons are interviewed, questions are asked. The timeliness of it, I think, is what sets Ontario apart as one of the leading regulators in Canada and even in North America.

How large is the provincial police's AGCO bureau?

Approximately 160 police officers.

We have quite a number of large casinos with table games. The [officers] are literally in the building, 24/7, observing what is going on.

And this is in collaboration with the casino operator — there is a requirement in our standards that any illegal activity must be reported immediately.

It's in the public interest.

The average patron walking in will know there is some agency overseeing — and I'm not just talking about the cameras in the ceiling — there's an agency, an authority that will assure them everything will be played fairly.

Were you surprised by the Dirty Money report?

No.

Ontario was interviewed by Peter German, and we're happy to have that kind of comment from him. But we're not taking ourselves lightly.

I don't want to sound defensive, but we never let our guard down; one incident is one too many. So we're looking at what he has said, and we're going to learn from it.

The whole modernization of the regulation of gaming means you never stand still. You're always looking to see what you can improve.

We're more than happy to work with colleagues across the country and be available for help.

This interview aired during CBC's All Points West on July 6 and has been edited for clarity and length. To hear the complete interview, click on the audio below.

A representative for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario explains how his province protects against money laundering casinos - and how B.C. can learn to do the same. 8:59