Canadian Casino Sting A Sore Spot

After a report on money laundering in British Columbia, authorities said Ontario was ripe was similar issues
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A tiff over a casino sting operation in Canada broke out last week when Ontario Premier Doug Ford called out the province’s auditor general, Bonnie Lysyk, claiming she wasted money on a failed and inappropriate operation at four casinos, according to the Canadian Press.

“You can’t do a sting operation, you can’t all of a sudden deputize yourself and think you’re the secret service going around doing sting operations — that failed, by the way, and they were caught,” Ford said in the story.

According to the auditor general’s annual budget report, her office hired “mystery shoppers” to test the ability to launder money at casinos. The mystery shoppers tried their luck at two casinos before the operation was shut down at the request of the provincial police, who said it was too time consuming and took too many of their resources.

Warning signs

The results of the sting were released after Ontario Commissioner Austin Cullen last summer released a report that found instances of money laundering in British Columbia casinos. On the heels of the report, Cullen said that Ontario’s casinos were also at “high risk” for money-laundering operations.

Two individuals hired by the auditor general entered two casinos with between $5,000-$11,000 in cash. According to the Canadian Press story, there was no way to trace what happened next because the transactions were in cash, but it reported that Lysyk said the shoppers cashed out with “casino cheques” of $4,900 and $10,600.

“The purpose of the mystery shopper assignment was to test whether the casinos verified the mystery shoppers’ play and casino wins before issuing cheques of $3,000 or more,” Lysyk wrote in her report.

Regardless of the success or failure of the operation, Ford’s beef appears to be with whether Lysyk and her agency had the right to run a sting in the first place.

“The auditor general has to stay in her lane and focus on where there’s waste of money,” Ford said at a press conference on another matter Dec. 1.

Americans have easy access to Ontario’s casinos

Ontario has about 30 brick-and-mortar casinos operated by 18 companies, according to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming website, including Caesars-Windsor, just over the border from Detroit, and two on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls — Casino Niagara and the Fallsview Casino.

On April 4, the province became the first in Canada with a commercial industry for digital sports betting and iGaming, though sports bets cannot yet be placed in person.

Photo: Shutterstock

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