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Money laundering at casinos

Confidential documents are shedding light on a host of suspicious behaviour at B.C. casinos, where patrons routinely carry bags loaded with small bills onto the gaming floor.

Government reports obtained by CTV News highlight dozens of instances of suspected money laundering and loan sharking, most at the River Rock Casino in Richmond.

And the problem only appears to be growing: The number of suspicious transactions reported has more than doubled over the last three years, from 459 in 2011 to 1,013 in 2013.

“Something’s not right,” former casino worker Jason Feng said. “With all these suspicious transactions, at least a few of them are legitimately money laundering.”

In one case from 2012, a “Mr. F” walked into a casino’s VIP room with a backpack and bought in for $200,000 using all $20 bills.

He has an extensive history of suspicious transactions, according to the documents, and once brought in $1.6 million in a single month. The government believes Mr. F has a source available all hours of the day to provide him and other players with large amounts of cash to gamble with.

The province said it has strengthened anti-money laundering efforts, though its documents show plenty of repeat offenders.

Another gambler, “Mr. C,” was barred for suspicious behaviour three years ago, only to turn up at the River Rock a year later with a bag carrying $100,000.

Insiders are frustrated the government and police aren’t cracking down on the behaviour, sources told CTV News.

Of the more than 1,000 suspicious transactions referred to police in 2013, zero have resulted in criminal charges.

Instead, gamblers caught trying to money launder could be barred for two weeks. Feng said the slap on the wrist is hardly a deterrent.

“What’s more important, catching these people or making money?” he asked.

Gambling revenue provides B.C. taxpayers with $1 billion per year. It’s unclear how much of that may come from illegal transactions, but former RCMP money laundering investigator Gary Clement said a casino crackdown is overdue.

“Allowing them to bring in boxes of cash or bags of cash, it’s just a conduit for money laundering,” Clement said.

Mike De Jong, B.C.’s minister responsible for gambling, said the government is looking at ways to target gamblers who have a history of suspicious transactions.

The province has also introduced ways for gamblers to not use cash, he said.

“If there’s a trend developing – and I’m advised that this is very much the trend – it is to move away from cash-based gaming in favour of electronic transfers of money that are more easily traced,” De Jong said.

The government’s own reports suggest many high rollers prefer not to use electronic transfers, however.

The RCMP declined to comment on the lack of money laundering charges.

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