2019.05.19

The casino sector in British Columbia is always under controversy and scanner

The casino industry in British Columbia cannot just seem to stay out of any controversy or happenings for the wrong reasons. 

In this week, the Attorney General of British Columbia issued a report regarding the working conditions at River Rock Casino Resort. The resort is located in Richmond, which is a suburban area of Vancouver. The report has details of incidents of verbally abusing and physically torturing/violence inflicted on the staff at the hands of VIP gamblers of the casino. This kind of incident dates back to 2017.  

There are 49 separate allegations of harassment, which is there in the report of Paladin Security. Some of the harassments include hurling chairs, VIPs giving death threats to staff or their family members, throwing a player button into the chest of the staff, slamming a player button in the dealer’s hand, attempting to play ‘footsie’ with a dealer and so on. 

There are other incidents, which are more serious. There was a VIP who was drunk and who slapped two staff through the face. However, the person was permitted to stay as a guest at River Rock’s hotel. The then-director of VIP guest relations of the casino devised a great plan. He asked the staffer for not reporting the incident and then convinced the VIP to give the staffer a check for $2K. 

In another incident a gambler was involved who was abusing a dealer verbally. The dealer complained to the supervisor. The dealer was moved to another table. When the luck of the gambler changed, he wanted that the older original dealer should return. The supervisor had to honor the request and the dealer was compelled to return to the ongoing, hostile situation. 

In most of the cases when staffers reported to their supervisors about the complaints, they were either asked to ignore such things or have suggestions that staff would get accustomed to the abuse. Many staffers also said that they were warned of being fired if they reported any kind of issues to anyone but the human resources. 

Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCG) manages the operations of River Rock. In a statement, which was issued by the corporation, it was said that the corporation would not tolerate any kind of conduct which might put the security and safety of a person at risk. 

In a second report it was found that GCG had observed the rules and regulations when it came to various incidents which needed filing police reports. But it did not report some of such incidents to the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), which is the branch of government responsible for overseeing the gaming sector in the province. 

Whistleblower disturbed by ‘friends’ lending cash in the casino

These reports came in the same week that a former supervisor of River Rock turned into a whistleblower and shed great light on cheap anti-money laundering (AML) at the casino. The name of the person is Muriel Labine and she expressed her views to Global News. She said that she had reported of loan sharks operating without any inhibition at the casino, but the casino managers always dismissed her reports giving lame excuses that the loaning was taking place just between friends and nothing else. 

To seek security and safety, Labine approached Adrian Thomas, the then vice-president of GCG and informed him about the presence of dangerous gangs in the casino. Thomas asked her to relax and not worry as they were only Asian gangs. He said that he had made a deal with them and they won’t harm the place they are playing!

However, when Thomas was questioned, he denied the claims that Labine made, telling Global that he never had any kind of understanding with any gang. However, he accepted that he told some casino patrons not to jot down transactions in their own record books as there were surveillance cameras all around. 

PARQ Vancouver casino just on the edge

British Columbia’s shame in the casino sector can be ended with the mention of Parq Vancouver. This downtown casino is of C$700m and opened in September 2017. The province had started imposing strict AML rules and now it has become difficult for the casino to pay off the heavy construction tab. 

Many might not know that though the casino reportedly operates profitably, there is a huge amount of debt on the casino. The amount of the debt is so high that Paragon Gaming (US-based) tired of the losses, sold its stake in this property earlier in this year. When that happened, Parq Holdings LP, which consists of Dundee Corp (37%) and PBC Group (63%), came in control. PBC Group is a privately held real estate developer; while Dundee Corp is a publicly traded real estate and agricultural firm.

Last month, Parq Holdings’ credit ratings by S&P Global Ratings downgraded to CCC. This is 8 spots below the investment grade. An interest payment was deferred by one month till 30th April by Parq, but no one has a clear idea of the payment was done or not. 

Jonathan Goodman, Dundee’s CEO told investors in late March that some restructuring was becoming imminent, as the company wouldn’t invest in a place where there are no chances of any good. It is being expected that some third party will appear and take some of Dundee’s shares and put some more capital to the debt-monster. 

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