The British Columbian government has commenced its inquiry into money laundering in the Canadian province, with a focus on identifying possible links with the gambling sector.
Recent government-commissioned reports highlighted gaming as one of several industries that could have issues with money laundering, alongside the luxury car and real estate markets. Media reports estimate that as much as CAD$5bn was laundered in the province in 2018 alone.
The New Democratic Party-led government has launched the inquiry to uncover further evidence and establish how it can address such problems.
Among the initial issues covered in the reports was that people had been allowed to enter casinos with large bags of cash, but were not questioned by staff as to how they acquired the money. This, the government said, raised concerns over potential links money laundering.
Participants invited to take part in the inquiry will make opening statements this week, with the process scheduled to reconvene in May. The main hearings are due to take place between September and December.
Provincial lottery operator British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) said in its opening statement that it is keen to work with authorities to tackle what it describes as a “complex” issue, but also talked up the benefits of legal gambling in the province.
The BCLC outlined some of the measures it has put in place to combat money laundering, including know-your-customer processes that examine players’ financial dealings, and to identify any potential risks.
The BCLC also said that it conducts in-depth anti-money laundering training for all of its staff working in casinos, as well as operating its own anti-money laundering unit as part of an ongoing effort to clamp down on such issues.
Building on this, the BCLC set out the benefits of legal gambling in British Columbia, noting that the market is a key source of tax revenue for the province, with funds generated used to support various social projects.
“Accordingly, we respectfully urge the Commission to recognize and consider the important public benefits that flow from responsible gaming in this province as it addresses the issue of money laundering in the gaming industry,” the BCLC said in the statement.
“That said, BCLC’s focus on revenue growth has never been intended to be at the expense of sustainable gaming conducted in a socially responsible manner. BCLC takes seriously its responsibility to enhance the positive social benefits of gaming while minimizing the potentially negative aspects or consequences.”
The BCLC also referenced some general observations in its statement, including its belief that tackling money laundering is a complex issue, primarily because it is an international problem involving sophisticated organized crime.
The operator stated that money laundering in British Columbia is not a problem specific to gambling that can be solved with only industry-specific solutions, but instead an issue that requires broader solutions. As such, the BCLC called for a “holistic, cross-sector, and cross-jurisdictional approach”.
Similarly, the BCLC said that the prevention of money laundering cannot be the responsibility of a single entity but rather a coordinated effort among all entities that play a role in monitoring, investigating, and taking action against potential criminal activity.
“Our understanding of money laundering has evolved not just in British Columbia and Canada, but worldwide, and we suggest that caution should be exercised when assessing past events through the lens of what we know today about money laundering,” the BCLC added.