Tag Archives: BC government

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Vancouver Not Vegas Calls for Reinstatement of Specialized Casino Police Unit

Photo via CBC
The Vancouver Not Vegas coalition calls for Premier Clark to reinstate the Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team (IIGET), following revelations that suspicious transactions have more than doubled in casinos since 2011.

In 2009 the specialized casino police unit IIGET was disbanded weeks after it warned then Solicitor-General Rich Coleman that organized crime had infiltrated the gambling industry and was actively laundering money and loan sharking in casinos (see Appendix A).

By 2011 cash monitoring had deteriorated so severely that the BC Lottery Corporation was fined almost $700,000 by the federal agency FINTRAC for failure to control suspicious transactions at casinos.

“This is a complete systemic collapse of governance,” says Sandy Garossino, spokesperson for Vancouver Not Vegas. “There’s been no specialized policing presence in casinos for 5 years and organized crime has been brazenly active the whole time. BCLC has completely failed to control casino criminal activity.”

Vancouver Not Vegas renews its calls for former BCLC CEO Michael Graydon to be deemed unsuitable for employment with Paragon Gaming.  “Did Graydon know about this report when he jumped without warning from BCLC?” asks Garossino. “For at least 5 years Graydon knew organized crime was active in BC casinos, and completely failed to rein them in. Now he’s going to head a casino of his own?”

During the casino fight in 2011, 18 senior organized crime policing specialists submitted a letter which warned Vancouver City Council about rampant criminal activity of gangs and organized crime in casinos.
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Text media requests to:
Sandy Garossino 778-231-5230

See also:
Former Commander IIGET comments on casino oversight:
http://www.publiceyeonline.com/archives/004373.html
http://www.publiceyeonline.com/archives/004427.html
http://www.publiceyeonline.com/archives/004907.html

Appendix A:

Excerpted quotes from 2009 IIGET report on criminal activity in casinos (p 22):

“Canadian casinos are extremely vulnerable to money-laundering because they deal in cash and handle tens of millions of dollars every day.

Many investigations… have shown that members of organized crime use casinos for criminal purposes (e.g. loan sharking and money laundering) and that some of these criminal elements have successfully infiltrated the industry.

Since 2003 FINTRAC has sent several disclosure reports to the RCMP on suspicious transactions involving casinos… Anecdotally, police managers have suggested… nothing is being done to investigate these situations.”

(emphasis added)

Vancouver Not Vegas Calls on Province to Block Graydon Appointment

Vancouver Not Vegas Calls on Province to Block Graydon Appointment

Michael Graydon BCLC

Vancouver Not Vegas calls for the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB) to refuse to recognize Michael Graydon as a qualified officer of the newly formed PV Hospitality ULC, due to the public perception that Mr. Graydon may have violated the Conflict of Interest Guidelines of the BC Lottery Corporation, and due to his possession of sensitive confidential information pertaining to Paragon’s competitors.

Further, Vancouver Not Vegas calls for the City of Vancouver to attach a restrictive covenant to the property’s Development Permit, permanently limiting the number of slots and gaming tables on the new Edgewater Casino site.

Finally, VNV calls for the BC Lottery Corporation to publicly disclose all financial projections and public subsidies associated with the proposed Edgewater Casino expansion at BC Place.

“Public trust and confidence in the integrity of the BC Lottery Corporation is at stake,” says VNV member Ian Pitfield.  “The corporation’s own Conflict of Interest Guidelines enjoin management from conduct which raises the perception of conflict. These rules are meaningless if there are no post-employment consequences for violations.”

“The City must respond to Mr. Graydon’s actions. Paragon  is building a casino that’s oversized by some 40,000 square feet, and the BCLC governs the number of slots and table licenses that will go there.” says VNV spokesperson Sandy Garossino. “Mr. Graydon’s defection raises grave concerns about his neutrality while at BCLC, and what promises may have been made to Paragon.”

According to previous financial projections associated with an expanded Edgewater Casino, the BC Lottery Corporation was scheduled to transfer $16.9 million annually to Paragon Gaming to off-set construction costs.  PavCo has re-negotiated a 50% lease reduction to $3 million annually. No projections of increased revenues (net of revenue losses to other local casinos) to the BCLC have been made public.

BCLC Conflict of Interest Guidelines

http://corporate.bclc.com/content/dam/bclc/corporate/documents/soebc-for-employees.pdf

Gaming Control Act:

http://www.bclaws.ca/Recon/document/ID/freeside/00_02014_01

Deloitte report showing $16.9 m in construction subsidy: http://vancouvernotvegas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Deloittes-Economic-Report-Entertainment-Complex.pdf  P. 8

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Media contacts:

Sandy Garossino
Please TEXT queries to:
778-231-5230

Ian Pitfield
604-828-5494

VNV responds to renewed plans for massive downtown Vancouver casino

Sept 24, 2013

Full text of our statement today in response to Paragon Gaming’s announcement of renewed plans to build a massive casino “resort” in downtown Vancouver.

Vancouver Not Vegas responds to Paragon Gaming announcement 
September 24, 2013

In 2011 Vancouverites united and spoke with one voice that we don’t want a mega-casino in our city.  This is not who we are, nor the values we want to project about our city.  We do not choose to offload the cost of government onto the weak and the vulnerable. And we’re not alone. Cities across Canada are telling governments they’ve had it with the relentless attempt to force gambling into our communities.

Yet despite a resounding 11-0 vote in Vancouver City Council that rejected the proposal, here we are again.

Yet again there has been no transparency, no disclosure, no public consultation of a massive casino project.  Yet again a glamourous shiny announcement of a half-billion dollar project is foisted on the public with few details.

The most important feature of the Paragon announcement is the information still being withheld from the public.

  1. No disclosure of the planned casino floor space. Vancouver City Council, with no public debate on this key point, approved a rezoning of over 2.5 acres of casino floor space for this site—that’s over 2 NFL football fields.
  2. No disclosure of the very significant public subsidies going into the construction and maintenance of the development.  Does the BC Lottery Corporation facility development contribution remain at $16.9 million annually, as outlined in the Deloitte Report issued in 2010?
  3. No disclosure of the public subsidy in the form of the 50% lease discount negotiated with PavCo.  These lands were supposed to help pay for the stadium roof.  Now the lease won’t even pay the interest on the debt.

This is a terrible deal for both the City of Vancouver and the Province of BC.  If Edgewater cannot expand its slot machines and gaming tables, it’s a business certainty that revenues to the province and the city will fall, because Edgewater’s expenses are about to rise precipitously.  There are no independent pro formas detailing projected earnings. It’s vital to remember that the Edgewater Casino has never met the original revenue promises it made to the city upon which its original license was granted.

End to end, this is a money losing proposition that will only add to the millions of dollars the public loses annually in the operation of BC Place.

Vancouver Not Vegas has filed a petition in BC Supreme Court contesting the relocation.

Statement by Sandy Garossino on behalf of VNV
Text queries to 778-231-5230

Addendum:

Video via here.

The Province’s editorial cartoon on the Edgewater casino plan

From The Province, March 3, 2011

Comment on Vancouver’s Oak Street Shooting: gangs and money-laundering

The shooting of 10 gang-related people on Vancouver’s westside over the weekend is an astonishing punctuation mark in our history. We all know this horrific escalation of violence is out of any control by police and civil authorities, and no end is in sight.

Most of us associate gangs with violence and street warfare, but these incidents are only ancillary to the massive industry behind them. Money is the lifeblood that feeds it. Controlling the gangs is as simple, and as overwhelmingly difficult, as this: STOP THE MONEY.

It’s impossible to stop the drug business, the prostitution, human trafficking, gun and weapons trade, loan sharking and other commerce that preys on human misery and weakness.

Yet consider this: almost ALL gang-related transactions are cash, and that cash, hundreds and hundreds of millions of it, must be laundered into “legal” currency through conventional business outlets.

FINTRAC (Financial Transactions and Report Analysis Centre of Canada) is the federal government agency tasked with discovering, scrutinizing, disrupting, and shutting down money-laundering activities. It has identified casinos as a high priority focus for money laundering by organized crime and terrorists–which BC has had more than its fair share of: see  FINTRAC – Money Laundering Typologies and Trends in Canadian Casinos – Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.

FINTRAC tracking indicates that money laundering in casino venues has increased significantly from 2007-08.

For all their talk about integrity and law and order, the BC Lottery Corporation and the BC government have almost completely abandoned the nexus between legal gambling operations and money-laundering by organized crime.

In late 2008 the Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team issued a damning report, which said “Canadian casinos are extremely vulnerable to money laundering because they deal in cash and handle tens of millions of dollars every day… members of organized crime also used casinos for criminal purposes and… some of these criminal elements have successfully infiltrated the industry. “ See RCMP on money-laundering.

The report goes on to say that in recent years FINTRAC has alerted the RCMP to suspicious transactions involving casinos, with amounts across Canada totalling over $40 million, but that, “because of other priorities and lack of resources, at this time, nothing is being done to investigate these situations.”

Most of us, faced with such an incendiary report, would immediately beef up policing of casinos, yes?

Obviously we don’t understand how protecting the public interest actually works in the greatest place on earth.

Because the real answer was to call an urgent in-camera meeting of the IIGET Consultative Board with representatives of the Gaming Branch, to review the report. This happened on January 26, 2009, and concluded with a discussion of the “uncertainty of future funding for IIGET.”

Within three weeks, internal emails reveal, the die was cast. IIGET would be disbanded. See the emails concerning the closure of the integrated illegal gaming enforcement team. To this day BC has no dedicated specialized policing of casinos and the money-laundering and loan-sharking that go on inside their premises on a daily basis: The announcement was made April 1, 2009, which probably tickled the funny-bones over at BC Gaming.

And what has been the result?

The BC Lottery Corporation seems to have turned a blind eye to the whole business. In July of this year, FINTRAC, in an unprecedented move, fined the BC Lottery Corporation $670,000 for inadequate reporting of suspicious transactions–the first fine of a gaming regulatory body in Canada. BC Lottery Corporation president Michael Graydon brushed off the offenses as clerical errors.

Mr. Graydon, Solicitor General Rich Coleman: We are seeing the results of your negligence on our city streets. Our children are waking in their beds to the sound of gunfire outside their windows.

Faced with the opportunity to help stop this hellish business, you are doing nothing. Worse than nothing.

Give us real policing in our casinos, and stop pretending that everything that goes on inside them is just fun and games.

BC Business on the proposed expanded Edgewater mega-casino

This article was first published on October 7, 2010 in BC Business Magazine. To read the original on the BC Business site instead, please click here. We wanted to reproduce the article here because it is an informative, thorough investigation into the salient details of the casino deal. Article is by Nick Rockel; image by Peter Holst. For related materials, please see Vancouver Observer series and Edgewater cannot compete with Singapore for China gamblers. Please note that what Paragon states may differ from actual casino plans, particularly on this question of the ‘destination casino.’ Please stay tuned for future article, and  review the Vancouver Observer series (link above) to keep yourselves informed.

The new casino slotted for downtown Vancouver will triple the gambling capacity of the old Edgewater and help pay for a new roof for neighbouring BC Place. Whether the global gambling elite will come to play, as both the developer and province hope, is another matter .

In his black jacket and open- necked shirt, Scott Menke looks ready to play a little roulette, or maybe some Texas hold’em. One morning in late June, the president and co-founder of Las Vegas-based casino developer Paragon Gaming is sitting in the boardroom of his company’s downtown Vancouver office at Plaza of Nations. Menke has just flown in from Edmonton, where his company runs one of its three Canadian casinos. With the confidence of a croupier, he explains how Paragon plans to transform Vancouver into a global gambling destination.

Paragon owns the Edgewater Casino, an underwhelming 30,000-square-foot establishment at the far end of the plaza. But it recently won the right to build a Vegas-style hotel, casino and entertainment complex across the street from here, on a small plot of land next to provincially owned BC Place Stadium. The Edgewater – or rather, its precious gaming licence – will move to the new 780,000-square-foot development, which Paragon aims to finish by 2013.

With 150 tables and up to 1,500 slot machines, the casino portion of the still-unnamed, $450-million project will be more than three times bigger than the Edgewater. But Menke points out that it occupies just 14 per cent of the proposed complex, a branded property that will include two hotels with a combined 650 rooms, plus restaurants, shops, meeting spaces and spa and gym facilities. “Everybody says it’s a casino, but the casino is only 100,000 square feet out of 800,000,” notes the tall Arizona native.

Focus on destination tourism

Menke says the Paragon development is an opportunity to bring more visitors to Vancouver. Where 23 per cent of the Edgewater’s customers are from outside the Lower Mainland, Paragon projects that number will at least double at the new property, thanks to a mix of Canadian and international guests.

In other words, the joint won’t rely on Metro Vancouver residents to keep its baccarat tables and hotel rooms full. “We’ll continue to build our local base, but our focus is really on the destination tourism,” Menke says. “We absolutely believe that we’re going to be additive to the market, not competing with other hotels around here.”

Paragon’s Vancouver play is one more step in the expansion of the B.C. gambling industry, which may soon pour more money into provincial coffers than all corporate income taxes combined. Gambling – or gaming, to use the industry euphemism – is a lucrative business. But skeptics say the provincial government is hooked on the revenues it brings while overlooking the economic and social costs of problem gambling. To others, the idea that high rollers from Chicago and Shanghai will flock to a Vancouver casino is far-fetched. And if the province does view gambling as more than a money grab, it isn’t sharing its plan with the public.

Continue reading

Proposed expanded Edgewater Casino thinks it can compete with Singapore for big gamblers from China?

“Destination casino” – that’s how the BC provincial government and Vegas gambling corporation Paragon Gaming plan have designated the proposed new Edgewater complex. What does this mean? It means that the casino complex intends to reach its projected revenues, the casino would have to attract significant gambling tourism, not just locals. In the case of the Edgewater Casino, a large fraction of the the targeted market is supposedly wealthy gamblers from China. There are a number of troubling issues associated with destination casinos, and we’ll deal with those at the end, but the first question we are asking here is this: has the BC government really thought out whether this “destination casino” can really do what it says it can and attract these gamblers? Because it’s very unlikely that it can deliver. Consider just one of many competing mega-casinos:

Singapore, which is a world leader in planning and which very carefully designed its casino industry to market almost exclusively to tourists and very wealthy clientele;

Singapore, which has almost the lowest crime rate in the world, strict and well-funded policing and zero tolerance for gang activity;

Singapore, which wants the Asian/Chinese high-roller gambling dollars that we naively think we can compete with them for;

Singapore,which is only a short, low-cost flight away from Hong Kong or China.

And when you get to Singapore, you get this:

Do BC and Vancouver really think we are going to induce the Chinese big spender to come halfway around the world to be impressed by this?:

Now, let’s look at other issues associated with mega-casinos.

What we sometimes hear from our elected public officials on this topic goes like this: “oh, the new casino isn’t in a residential area, and lots of cities have them.”

Wrong.

Ask the False Creek Residents Association whether or not they agree that this is not a residential area! And this district is extremely close to both Yaletown (2 minute walk away) and Gastown, not to mention Strathcona, only a 10 minute walk away—and  with the Prior/Venables artery, gamblers and loan sharks will be passing right through the neighbourhood daily.

Furthermore, do other cities really put mega-casinos in their downtown core?

No, they don’t. Chicago, for example. Their “downtown” casino? It’s 20 minutes outside of Chicago downtown, very like our current River Rock Casino in Richmond. Singapore’s casinos charge $80 for locals to enter, and they have one at their huge major resort downtown that is very far from any residential area. The other is on an island 10 miles from the city. Everything is strictly designed for tourism, not local gambling.

Montreal’s casino is on the Expo island–again away from the city residential heart, as is the casino in Edmonton. NO cities except declining poverty traps like Detroit have allowed this.

This is not normal urban planning. We are not even approaching the frontier of “urban planning” here. After the decades and tens of millions of dollars that have gone into making Vancouver the most livable city in the world, are twe are going to plop Las Vegas into it? And for what? So that our rich and corporations can have the lowest taxes anywhere? And on that topic, what has that done for us lately? Where are the waves of major corporate head offices coming our way because of the low taxes? Non-existent.

Vancouver! You—City Council as well as Vancouver citizens— must stand up and defy the province on this one.