British Columbia

Victoria's mayor wants to pull support for casino over money laundering concerns

Lisa Helps plans to ask city councillors to support her intention to inform the B.C. Lottery Corporation that Victoria is no longer interested.

Lisa Helps is seeking council support to tell BCLC Victoria no longer wants gaming facility

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps wants to pull Victoria's support for a downtown casino over revelations about B.C. casino money laundering and links to organized crime. (Charles Krupa/The Canadian Press)

Victoria's mayor says she has gone from lukewarm to a firm no on the idea of a downtown casino.

Lisa Helps plans to ask city councillors to support her intention to inform the B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC) that Victoria is no longer interested in hosting a gaming facility.

"There's too much information that has come out with regard to money laundering, trafficking in fentanyl and organized crime," she said. "I don't think we need that in Victoria."

​In a letter to be discussed at Thursday's meeting, Helps lays out her concerns and asks for direction from council to write to BCLC and withdraw the city from consideration.

Earlier this year, the B.C. government received a scathing independent report that showed widespread money laundering in B.C. casinos and links to organized crimes.

The Dirty Money report by Peter German found more than $100 million had been cleaned through B.C. casinos.

German put forward 48 recommendations to fix the problem and he noted it had been apparent to officials as far back as 2011.

Victoria selected as host

BCLC announced in 2015 it planned to open a second gaming facility in Greater Victoria. A casino has long operated in View Royal, just outside Victoria.

At the time, the City of Victoria indicated it was interested in pursuing the opportunity and it was chosen by BCLC as a host city.

In November, BCLC wrote to Victoria to tell council it's ready to move forward and seek proposals from potential operators for the new gaming facility.

"Recognizing the length of time since it first corresponded with the City, BCLC is respectfully requesting a reaffirmation of the City of Victoria's participation," wrote Brad Desmarais, vice-president, casino and community gaming.

But in light of recent revelations about what's been going on at B.C.'s casino's, Helps said she can no longer support a proposed facility for Victoria.

"I was open to it, but this new information makes me not open to it," she said.

BCLC said it's aware of the request from Helps and it respects the authority of local governments to choose whether they want a gambling facility.

Officials will wait for confirmation from the City of Victoria before taking next steps, it said. 

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