Friday, October 27, 2006

Gambling expansion brings new crime wave

VICTORIA - It’s all unfolding just as Liberal MLA Kevin Krueger predicted when he warned government about the risks of gambling expansion.
Addictions. Suicides. Families destroyed.
Crime - especially organized crime - on the increase.
The latest bad news comes in the annual report of the province’s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, which reveals a crime explosion at casinos and “community gaming centres.”
Investigations into serious offences like loan sharking and money laundering more than doubled last year. Overall, the branch launched 3,414 investigations - a 36-per-cent increase.
It’s no surprise. Krueger warned government about expanding gambling:  "There is a huge increase in crime, right from breaking into vending machines in order to have money for slot machines, on up to white-collar crime and into really heinous crimes as well."
Criminals like casinos. They’re a good place to move counterfeit money. The branch investigated 1,155 reports of counterfeit offences, up about 3.6 per cent from the previous year.
And casinos are a great place for big-time drug dealers and gangs to launder the proceeds of crime. It’s simple to buy $5,000 worth of chips, make a few safe bets and then cash in and leave with a casino cheque. Criminals can even declare the income. (The federal government does require casinos to report unusual transactions. But it’s hard to track every gambler and, as an Alberta RCMP report noted, casinos are reluctant to risk alienating good customers.)
Then there are the crimes with individual victims.
Problem gamblers and addicts make wonderful customers for loan sharks. They’re desperate and ashamed, but can’t quit. They have jobs and cars and homes - at least for a while - so the lender can usually collect.
The gambling enforcement branch investigated 192 reports of loan sharking last year - almost four new files opened every week. In Richmond, home to he province’s largest casino, RCMP are seeking extra officers to deal with the crime. They report at least five kidnappings in the last 18 months linked to gambling debts.
It’s all unfolding as the Krueger and the Liberals predicted when they were in opposition. That’s why they promised to stop the expansion of gambling.
Instead they went wild, tripling the number of slots, launching Internet betting and pushing mini-casinos into small towns, part of a plan to recruit more gamblers and increase their average loss. (That’s another reason Gordon Campbell said he opposed gambling. Its purpose is to create losers, Campbell said, and he didn’t want a province of losers.)
Meanwhile the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch budget has been cut for three consecutive years. The government is spending six per cent less now on enforcement than it did in 2003-4.
In that time the number of slot machines in the province has doubled. The number of casinos and mini-casinos has increased by more than 50 per cent, taking slots into small communities in every corner of the province.
Naturally, enforcement efforts can’t keep up. Last year the gaming branch launched more than 2,000 investigations into criminal activity. The result was 11 Criminal Code charges. It started 650 investigations into Gaming Control Act violations. For the second year, not a single charge was laid under the act.
The branch says its enforcement efforts are relatively new, explaining both the increasing activity and the lack of charges.
But the crime wave is exactly what the Liberals said would result from a gambling expansion.
Krueger, Campbell and the rest also warned about social problems. And the branch’s annual report shows they were right again. Problem-gambling calls to its help line jumped to 5,830 last year - an 86-per-cent increase over the previous year. More slots, more promotion, more gamblers means more addicts and people whose lives are messed up.
The amount committed to responding to gambling problems remained frozen for the fourth consecutive year.
More crime, new opportunities for gangs, more addicted and problem gamblers and addictions and more damaged families.
It’s all unfolding just the way the Liberals predicted.
Footnote: Public concern about gambling expansion seems to be increasing. BC Lotteries tracks public approval and has been forced to downgrade its targets. And Terrace has just become the first community to reject a bid to install slots in a new “community gaming centre,” deciding the social and policing costs outweigh any short-term benefits.


Anonymous said...

Paul - How dare you use the BC Liberals own words against them!

It would be interesting to find out who much the gambling goes up on that 'special' Wednesday of every month when the BC Benefits cheques get deposited... Somehow I think that BCLC would not be so willing to give out that information.

Anonymous said...

The casino over past Esquimalt has a parking lot full most times of the day. Even has a bus to haul over the suckers. Alberta has some studies on gambling . On Line video is really the easier to get addicted to. But the bucks roll in. Hell even the sales clerks at the corner store arn't advesre to shafting their own customers by lying to them and taking big dollars for them selves.