Jim Lightbody. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

B.C. Lottery Corp. CEO ‘blown away’ by police report of organized crime at casinos

Jim Lightbody says the corporation did everything in its power to mitigate risk of money laundering

The president of the British Columbia Lottery Corp. says the first time he officially heard organized crime groups were laundering money at provincial casinos was six years ago during a meeting with the RCMP.

Up until the 2015 police briefing, there had long been concerns about suspicious cash circulating at casinos but the RCMP report confirmed it, Jim Lightbody told an inquiry into money laundering on Thursday.

“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.”

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.

The provincial government called the inquiry after a 2018 report by former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German concluded organized crime groups used B.C. casinos to launder illegal cash obtained through drug sales and other illicit activities.

RELATED: Ex-lottery VP testifies money laundering ‘politically charged,’ gets emotional

German said the crime groups loaned their illegal cash to players who would gamble at the casinos and later repay the criminals with the money they received after cashing out.

Lightbody said when people arrived at casinos with large bags of cash, suspicions were aroused, but the corporation previously allowed it because many high-spending patrons frowned upon using cheques, drafts or having specialized credit accounts at casinos for privacy and cultural reasons.

“These are people who first of all have a real concern about their privacy and they have a real concern about ‘government’ knowing how much money they have, and so using methods like cheques and other things like that aren’t things that they are necessarily drawn to,” said Lightbody.

Commission lawyer Patrick McGowan questioned Lightbody about whether players with large amounts of cash should have been asked more detailed questions about the origin of their money.

“Wasn’t really the obvious question, not how did they make their money but where did the $200,000 in $20 bills in the grocery bag they just put on the counter come from?” asked McGowan.

Lightbody said the players may have kept the cash in a bag as a disguise before entering the casino.

“It was a real eye-opener for a lot of us into this culture of wanting to use cash, especially for things like gaming that some people may see as a sin,” he said. “They don’t want, maybe, certain people in their family knowing that they are using and spending that amount of money.”

READ MORE: Inquiry hears money laundering concerns at B.C. casinos rose as 2010 Olympics neared

Former gaming investigator Larry Vander Graaf, who is also a former Mountie, told the commission last November the B.C. Lottery Corp. did not move quickly enough to protect the integrity of gaming from organized crime more than a decade ago.

He said suspicious cash started to appear at B.C. casinos in 2007 and by 2010 loan sharks were circulating nearby parking lots with bags of money believed to be from proceeds of crime.

Lightbody, who’s currently on medical leave from his position, said the lottery corporation did everything within its powers to mitigate the risk of money laundering.

The province appointed B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen in 2019 to lead the public inquiry into money laundering after three reports, including two by German, outlined how hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal cash affected the real estate, luxury vehicle and gaming sectors.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon Fire Rescue Services, BC Ambulance and Vernon North Okanagan RCMP responded to a three-vehicle collision at 32nd Street and 41st Avenue Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (Google Maps)
Three vehicles collide on main Vernon road

Extent of injuries unknown at this time; police, ambulance and fire on scene

Several road closures were in effect Jan. 13 due to downed trees, but meanwhile many residents are hoping Lake Country will invest in fixing damaged roads in 2021. (District of Lake Country photo)
Road safety puts Lake Country traffic plans in drive

District funds traffic calming program, and community grant

One person was extricated from a vehicle that rolled off Highway 97 Feb. 25, 2021, near Clerke Road in Coldstream around 2 p.m. (Roger Knox - Vernon Morning Star)
Two hurt in Highway 97 rollover south of Vernon

Ambulance transfers two patients with non-life-threatening injuries

The District of Lake Country and BC Transit would like the public’s feedback on how to improve the Kelowna Regional Transit System for Lake Country. (File photo)
Lake Country residents asked for transit feedback

District and BC Transit seeking ways to improve Kelowna transit system for Lake Country residents

Ryan Oliberius is Respect Works Here Community Champion of the month February 2021. (Contributed)
Community Champion: Youngest OKIB council member listens to heart, follows dreams

28-year-old Ryan Oliverius was working a welding job when he realized he ‘had to take responsibility for my own decisions’

Kelowna singer-songwriter Brent Carmichael wants to encourage the community to be more empathetic. (Brent Carmichael)
Kelowna singer-songwriter calls for compassion, empathy in new music video

Brent Carmichael’s new music video will premier on Feb. 28

Ella Lamourexu. (Phil McLachlan, Kelowna Capital News)
Kelowna’s drag story

Ella Lamourexu explains the history behind drag in Kelowna

Person experiencing homelessness. (Black Press Media file photo)
Program preventing youth homelessness launches in the Okanagan

Upstream Project’s goal is to help young people become more resilient

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Michael Rodriguez, Kelowna Capital News/FILE)
First death tied to COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna hospital

The outbreak was first announced on Monday, Feb. 22

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Walter Makepeace was shocked to find two of his beehives were missing from his Keremeos acreage Feb. 20, 2020. (Contributed)
Stolen beehives create buzz in South Okanagan village

Walter Makepeace was shocked to see two beehives had gone missing from his property

An official investigation will be launched after VPD officers were recorded posing near a dead body at Third Beach on Wednesday morning, Feb. 24. (Screen grab/Zachary Ratcliff)
VIDEO: Vancouver officers under review for allegedly laughing, taking pictures next to dead body

Two officers were caught on video by a local beachgoer Wednesday morning in Stanley Park

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
‘Stay local’: Dr. Henry shoots down spring break travel for British Columbians

B.C. is reportedly working with other provincial governments to determine March break policies

Most Read