The Québec government is putting measures in place to better protect its casinos against threats caused by organized crime.
Meanwhile, talks have resumed in a month-old strike by some 1,700 casino workers. More on that in a minute.
On Thursday, the province announced a new regulation that will ban people convicted of financial crimes — including money laundering, forgery, and charging interest at a criminal rate — from ever entering government-operated casinos. Further, the ban will also treat any violations of the Controlled Drugs and Substances in the same vein.
As a result, all individuals who have either been convicted of or pled guilty to such crimes within the past five years are no longer welcome in Québec casinos.
Currently, there are 10 legal gaming facilities in the province. Loto-Québec, the province’s gaming authority, owns four.
“Loto-Quebec and the government are aiming for the highest standards of responsible gaming and financial integrity,” Claudia Loupret, a spokesperson for Québec Finance Minister Eric Girard, said in a statement. “We have confidence in Loto-Québec to implement these new measures.”
New Québec regulation to take effect in about six weeks
In the statement, government officials said they expect the new measures to debut in approximately six weeks.
Notably, the decision follows a 2021 audit by Deloitte, which studied the presence of organized crime groups in casinos. Girard green lit the audit in response to several media reports that alleged organized crime members received VIP treatment at the Casino de Montréal.
In particular, the Deloitte audit targeted money laundering, loansharking, Loto-Québec’s loyalty program, and the measures in place to ensure the safety and independence of casino employees.
Subsequently, the report offered a few recommendations. The most prominent, however, was that Loto-Québec earn the right to ban people linked to lawlessness.
The gaming authority spoke about the recommendation in an unsigned statement.
“This additional measure supports the many other security measures already in place to combat money laundering at our establishments and ensure that our casinos are safe entertainment venues.”
Unfortunately, this is not just a problem for casinos in Québec, it’s a problem for British Columbia casinos, too. In May, British Columbia expanded its Civil Forfeiture Act to crack down on money laundering and organized crime. Here, law enforcement can target assets believed to be “proceeds of a crime.”
Experts weigh in on effectiveness of enhanced measures
Whenever new solutions to longstanding problems emerge, debate usually follows.
In this situation, there is little discrepancy between the core beliefs of industry experts. However, there are noticeable differences when assessing the overall value brought on by the ban.
Anna Sergi, a criminology professor at the University of Essex, has studied organized crime in Montréal before. She told the Canadian Press that similar rules already exist in Australia, and criminals will eventually find new ways to maneuver around them. For example, if criminal syndicates want to keep laundering through casinos, they will use third parties, representatives and figureheads to keep their operations running.
On the contrary, Patrice Poitevin, co-founder and executive director of the Canadian Centre of Excellence for Anti-Corruption, sees immense value in Québec’s program. He told CP that criminal groups would find ways around it, but that ultimately works in favour of law enforcement.
“Anything that you put in place that will make life a little more miserable for organized crime to use casinos and other means to launder money is a good thing.
“If you make it more difficult, where they have to go through many, many hoops, mistakes happen and that’s where detection occurs and we’re more likely to be able to discover, investigate and prosecute.”
Online gambling sites also a target, per Poitevin
The nationwide crackdown on money laundering in retail casinos has prompted criminal entities to explore new ventures. One of those, according to Poitevin, is online gambling sites.
In addition to exploiting online betting operators, crowdfunding platforms were also named as targets of illicit behaviour by Poitevin.
While he did not elaborate on the specifics, simply noting that it is already happening is cause enough for concern.
Loto-Québec provides update on ongoing strike
Some 1,700 Québec casino workers have been on strike since June 23 after talks between the CSN-affiliated labour union and Loto-Québec hit a wall.
Over the last few weeks, both sides have kept things under wraps, with no new information coming out of either camp.
However, that changed earlier today when Loto-Québec told PlayCanada that talks with the union have resumed.
“Loto-Québec is pleased to report that serious and constructive discussions between the parties have resumed, despite the strike still being in effect. Negotiations are currently underway,” a spokesperson said.
Now, with the two sides talking again, there is hope that the strike will soon come to an end. Until then, the affected casinos remain open, albeit on modified schedules.