Ministers from Two Cabinets Refused to Get BCLC Out of Gambling

Government in British Columbia was told it was better suited as a regulator, letting other entities operate high-limit gambling, a former chairman of the board at the BC Lottery Corp told the public enquiry.

Casino High-Limits Were Already There

Bud Smith, board chairman at the BCLC from 2013 to 2018, told the inquiry that, by the time of his appointment as chairman, casino limits were already at C$100,000, but ministers from two cabinets did not take into account his opinion.

The former BC attorney general testified that his suggestion that BC government was “ill-suited” to run high-level gaming business was largely ignored by former finance minister Mike de Jong in 2015 and by Attorney General David Eby in 2017.

“My opinion, whether they were good, bad or indifferent, when I came on wasn’t sought. Those were the limits.”

Bud Smith, former Chairman, BCLC

Smith justified his opinion by a host of reasons, including the historically present potential for suspicious activities at gambling establishments, hence regulating the business would be a role more suited to the Crown-owned lottery corporation.

On the question whether he was aware of reports in 2015 that in a single month BC casinos registered C$20 million cash buy-ins made mostly in C$20 bills, Smith replied that he would not be surprised at all that this could have happened.

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all that when you’ve got that much cash floating around, some of it is going to be sourced inappropriately, some of it is going to be used inappropriately and so on, and you can attach whatever names you want to that.”

Bud Smith, former Chairman, BCLC

Strategy Based on Risk Assessment

Smith outlined the board’s mandate was to continue the anti-money laundering (AML) strategy mainly through risk assessment of players and identifying their sources of cash, and finally to introduce alternatives to cash at casinos, but he never received an explicit advice from the government to focus primarily on implementing cash limitations.

Former finance minister de Jong showed his concerns regarding casinos flouting large amounts of suspicious cash at a meeting at the legislature in Victoria, asking for more efforts to get a grip on the issue, but never ordered a complete change in strategy.

“He said, ‘I do not want you to go to the dollar-specific approach. I want you to continue with your risk-based approach, but I want there to be more action to try to get a better handle on what’s going on.”’

Bud Smith, former Chairman, BCLC

The Crown-owned BC Lottery Corp which was founded in 1985 to run gaming in the province and has contributed to more than C$23 billion in net revenues to communities ever since, had to implement a source of funds policy at casinos in 2018, according which gambling establishments started asking for a receipt for cash buy-ins of C$10,000 or more.

Following several reports about money laundering via the real estate, luxury vehicle and gaming industries, former BC Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen was appointed in 2019 to lead a public inquiry.

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