To the average member of the public, gangs are associated with violence and turf wars. This view masks the reality that organized crime is fundamentally a large scale and powerful business, with operations throughout society.
If you think organized crime will not touch you or your family through the expansion of gambling, think again. Last year Betty Yan, a mother with children at a prestigious west side school, was shot to death in a Richmond parking lot. She was a loan shark working with gangs. Her clientele were gambling addicts in Lower Mainland casinos.
The damage didn’t end with her death. Parents at the west side elementary school, afraid for the safety of their own children, forced the woman’s young and traumatized children out of the school. And Yan was not the only murder victim tied to gambling and organized crime.
In 2006, loan shark Lilly Li left her regular shift at Richmond’s River Rock Casino with somewhere between $20,000 and $300,000 in cash, and disappeared. Her body was found months later, buried in a shallow grave at Jericho Beach.
This is happening in our city–our Metro Vancouver–and it is part and parcel of the expansion of legalized gambling and the building of casinos in our midst.
Right here in Metro Vancouver loan sharks charge up to 20% a day, and victims don’t believe police can do anything to protect them. Terrified of reprisals against the debtor or an innocent family member, loan shark victims are often forced into prostitution and drug-dealing to pay off their gambling debts: CBC News – British Columbia – Casino loan sharks a tricky target: RCMP
And just who do you think is there to help them with that little money-making sideline? Why, the gangs, of course. All under one roof, care of the BC taxpayer.
It didn’t used to be this way.
BC gambling in the old days mainly involved provincial lotteries and smoky bingo halls operated by charities. Those days are long gone, and the glittering gambling palaces that replaced the bingo halls are the perfect venue for budding young Scarfaces with their loan shark, money laundering, and drug dealing activities operated by the Hell’s Angels, the Asian triads, the UN gang, and Indo-Canadian gangs.
Apart from correctional institutions, casinos have the highest concentration of gangsters anywhere in BC, says Fred Pinnock, the former commander of BC’s Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team (IIGET): Ex-unit commander questions government’s commitment to “meaningful” illegal gaming investigations – Public Eye Online
Pinnock goes on to say “There’s a ton of criminal activity being conducted in these places every day, including money laundering, loansharking and other enterprise crimes.”
Policing legalized gambling operations requires highly specialized resources, training, sophisticated data bases and communications, and a far-reaching law enforcement strategy.
Naturally, you would expect that our provincial government, concerned as it is about the protection of the public and the perception that legal gambling operations are squeaky clean, would aggressively target the criminal element. Yup, and there is a great bridge for sale in Brooklyn, too.
The fact is that Minister Rich Coleman, who takes the gaming portfolio with him to whichever ministry he is moved to, has completely abdicated his responsibility to ensure the public is adequately protected in BC casinos. Faced with a report in January 2010 from IIGET that casinos are a hotbed of illegal activity (RCMP Money Laundering Report), and the team does not have nearly enough resources to do even rudimentary investigation, Minister Coleman immediately took decisive action: he disbanded them.
Now there is no serious oversight of gang and organized crime activity in casino operations. Now, as a result of the most recent cabinet shuffle, BC’s minister responsible for gaming is ALSO the Solicitor-General, and responsible for policing.
Even for gangsters, BC is Open for Business!