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Suspicious casino activity

A Burnaby city councillor was part of a government investigation for chip-passing at a Richmond casino three years ago, CTV News has learned.

Richard Chang has been a councillor in Burnaby since 2008 and is also known to spend time in B.C.’s casinos.

One of Chang’s outings to Richmond’s River Rock Casino in 2011 caught the attention of the BC Lottery Corporation for what it called suspicious activities.

A Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch investigation found that a casino high roller “passed $100,000 in chips to Chang.”

Chip passing is banned by the BCLC to keep casinos from being targeted for money-laundering purposes.

“It’s very easy to transact large volumes of currency in chips,” said Colin Campbell, a Douglas College criminologist. “Chips in the denomination of $5,000 or $10,000 are reasonably exchangeable within individuals. They can be exchanged in a handshake.”

Another report described Chang as having an “extensive history…of chip and cash passing and suspicious transactions.”

The councillor received a six-month ban from B.C. casinos in June 2011 as a result. Chang defended himself, saying he was holding the chips as a favour for an elderly friend.

“A few friends and I were going to the casino and were playing,” Chang told CTV News. “I didn’t know the rules.”

According to 2011 documents, Chang was “believed to carry a purse with both chips and cash which he distributes to players in that environment.”

The report also said Chang “is believed to be a loan shark." But the same report also questions the reliability of this information.

“It’s extremely concerning,” said Vancouver activist Sandy Garossino. “I would expect an elected official to know what the rules are. Somebody’s who is getting $100,000 in chips passed to them, he knows darn well what the rules are in a casino.”

Chang denies doing anything wrong, saying he’s never acted as a loan shark and was “surprised” to hear about the allegations.

He said at the time of the investigation, he told Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan that he had been barred from B.C. casinos.

Chang invited CTV News to call Corrigan to confirm those details.

Corrigan told us over the phone he didn’t want to comment on camera but confirmed that Chang had advised him that he had been barred. He also said over the phone that the fact a reporter was asking him about something that happened a few years ago was a “waste of time” and “absurd.”

As a city councillor, Chang is a member of Burnaby’s community policing committee, and he recently voted in favour of more slot machines at Burnaby’s Grand Villa Casino.

He said he doesn’t carry chips for friends any more but he does think BC casinos are too strict.

The councillor has never been charged in connection with his casino activities.

As for his career in politics, Chang said he doesn’t plan on running for re-election in November.

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