New year, same message from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
The provincial gambling authority announced Wednesday a fine against MGE Niagara Entertainment Inc., for anti-money laundering violations. Altogether, the Fallsview Casino operator faces a monetary penalty totalling $70,000.
According to the AGCO, the Ontario casino didn’t appropriately meet the requirements in place to minimize the risk of unlawful activity, including money laundering, which is a significant gaming safety and responsible gambling concern.
“The AGCO is committed to protecting the public interest and public safety and remains vigilant in its efforts to guard against potential money laundering at Ontario’s gaming sites,” Dr. Karin Schnarr, Chief Executive Officer and Registrar, AGCO said in the statement.
“Casino operators are important front-line partners in this effort and the AGCO holds all operators to rigorous standards when it comes to the prevention of unlawful activity.”
Fallsview tells Gaming News Canada that it will appeal
Gaming News Canada reported this morning that Fallsview Casino Resort plans to appeal through an independent tribunal.
In a statement statement sent to GNC, the casino said:
“We have reviewed the AGCO’s decision and respectfully disagree with it. Fallsview Casino Resort is a company devoted to compliance and good citizenship. We will be appealing the decision and look forward to presenting our case.
“As a responsible gaming operator, Fallsview Casino Resort is dedicated to identifying and preventing unlawful activities. Our company has a culture and history of integrity and transparency, and a longstanding commitment to compliance in Ontario.”
Casino staff accepted suspicious funds from ‘high risk’ patron
The incident that resulted in discipline from the AGCO originally took place in April 2023. At that time, the regulator says, a patron attended the Salon Privé at Fallsview Casino Resort with a grocery bag holding $80,000 in strapped $100 bills. The patron eventually presented the suspicious loot to casino staff.
According to surveillance footage from the encounter, the same customer did not play any games but left the table with casino chips once a Fallsview employee counted and verified the funds. This was done despite the player previously being identified as ‘high risk.’
In these situations, the casino must notify both the AGCO and on-site police when such transactions occur.
MGE Niagara also failed to take any meaningful steps to “ascertain and corroborate” the player’s source of funds. By doing so, the facility did not satisfy the anti-money laundering requirements laid out in the Registrar’s Standards for Gaming. Specifically, the Standards “require operators to report suspicious behaviours and to validate a patron’s source of funds when presented with significant amounts of bulk cash.”
For failing to meet said regulations, the AGCO found MGE Niagara in violation of sections 6. 1. 5 and 6. 3. 2.
First fine of 2024 on par with previous AGCO punishments
With MGE Niagara’s penalty on record, the AGCO has now served eight separate fines totalling $678,000 over the last 20 months.
The first, and surely not last, monetary penalty of 2024 lands on par with many of the previous punishments. Excluding lesser fines of $15,000 handed to both BV Gaming and Fitzdares back in June 2023 for offering bets on major junior hockey, the remaining fines sat between $70,000 and $150,000.