he CEO and President of the British Columbia Lottery Corporation said there had long been concerns about suspicious cash circulating in casinos, but it wasn't until 2015 that police confirmed the presence of an organized crime threat. On Thursday, Jim Lightbody told the ongoing public inquiry into money laundering in Canada that the information he received from the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) was a "pivotal moment'' that left him "blown away.''
He testified that it was the first time the RCMP told him they had evidence that organized crime was laundering money through provincial casinos, which the Crown corporation manages and safeguards, as reported by The Canadian Press. Lightbody, who's currently on medical leave, said the lottery corporation did everything within its powers to mitigate the risk of money laundering.
“That was a pivotal moment for us because we had now heard from the RCMP ... that there are proceeds of crime being used through a money service business in Richmond,” Lightbody said. “That alarmed me greatly. I was blown away.”
Jim Lightbody, CEO and President of the British Columbia Lottery Corporation.
Lightbody testified the report prompted the lottery corporation to step up its anti-money laundering efforts in 2015, which included requiring some players to disclose the source of their cash and banning others from the facilities outright. “We were all shocked at this,” he said. “We said, ‘We’ve got to do something about this.’ ”
The lottery corporation — which has a mandate to manage and safeguard casinos — implemented a policy in 2018 saying players wanting to buy in at a casino with $10,000 or more in cash must prove where the money came from.
But the inquiry heard prior to 2015 it was not uncommon for people to arrive at B.C. casinos with bags containing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of $20 bills. Lightbody testified the corporation allowed large cash buy-ins by some players at casinos, because many high-spending patrons frowned upon using cheques, drafts or having specialized credit accounts at casinos for privacy and cultural reasons.
The province appointed B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen in 2019 to lead the public inquiry into money laundering after three reports outlined how hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal cash was fuelling the real estate, luxury vehicle and gaming sectors.