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

Mike Beaudoin, Cory Ross, Don Parker, Harpal Aulakh Bart Schneider, Charles McDevitt and Jordan Cook show off some of the equipment Aulakh donated to the Quesnel Fire Department (Karen Powell Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel business donates rescue sled to fire department

The owner of AUL repair, Harpal Aulakh, supplied $5,000 worth of equipment

The City of Williams Lake is asking for public feedback on whether it should explore the opportunity to host a Greater Metro Hockey League team in Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
City of Williams Lake seeks feedback on hosting junior hockey league team

A league expansion application in Quesnel is also pending

The campground will be inside Quesnel, where the public works building used to be. (City of Quesnel Riverfront Plan)
Quesnel municipal campground project receives $500K in provincial funding

$20 million in funding was given to shovel-ready tourism projects across the province

A timing board was set up so skiers could record their own times. Savannah Robinson, who competes in biathlon as well, got a chance to test her skiing power. She came in second in the 20km classic race. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Cariboo Ski Touring Club ‘So-Lo-Ppet’ results

The Quesnel cross-country skiing group was forced to change because of COVID

Members of the Quesnel RCMP Detachment wore their best pink shirts to support anti-bullying efforts. (Back row – Constable Sean Terry, Sergeant Rirchard Weseen, Constable Bob Kalman, Constable Alyssa MacNeil Middle – Constable Doug Erickson, Patti Thompson, Cindy Osip, Constable Cody Brown Front – Dana Bouchard, Staff Sergeant Darren Dodge, Kellie Hipkin) (Karen Powell Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel RCMP goes pink in effort to stop bullying

Officers and staff from the detatchment participated in Pink Shirt Day

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Carolyn Howe, a kindergarten teacher and vice president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, says educators are feeling the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of pressure that comes with it. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Stress leave, tears and insomnia: Island teachers feel the strain of COVID-19

Teachers still adjusting to mask and cleaning rules, pressures from outside and within

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

Most Read