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Has $27m been laundered through B.C. Casinos?

A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) news investigation alleges that $27 million in suspicious money traveled through two British Columbia casinos earlier this year.

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According to the CBC, most of the money involved came in bundles of $20 bills.

The CBC raises the possibility that organised crime gangs or drug dealers may be using casinos to launder money. Because of the nature of cash transactions, criminals could theoretically exchange drug money for casino credit, then cash out before betting while claiming the money as winnings.

In 2011, the B.C. government announced a plan to tighten regulations regarding unusual cash transactions at casinos. Government officials also promised better training for casino staff members, training that would help them identify dubious transactions then report such activity to local police.

Some critics now say the government’s promised actions have been slow to develop. According to documents obtained by the CBC, some casino visitors arrived with suitcases and shopping bags stuffed with cash, mostly in small denominations. One visitor came in with $800,000 in $20 bills.

While the idea of thieves or drug dealers taking advantage of casinos to launder money is certainly troubling, it’s important to remember such transactions represent a tiny slice of overall casino revenue. An ongoing move toward electronic cash processing will also significantly restrict the ability of criminals to abuse casinos for laundering purposes. Canadian casinos remain some of the safest and best run in the world.

The B.C. government has promised continuing action to eliminate suspicious transactions from casinos, including the promotion of electronically traceable money transactions and vigorous prosecution of those who violate Canadian money laundering laws.

Currently, Canadian casinos are required to report any cash transaction greater than $10,000 to Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada for monitoring.