Victoria mayor to fold on downtown casino in wake of money laundering report
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says she's pulling her support for a downtown casino following the release of a report detailing the extent of money laundering in B.C.'s gaming industry.
Council voted in 2015 to explore submitting a proposal for a downtown casino to the BC Lottery Corporation, at one point eyeing Crystal Garden as the place to build it.
But a report released earlier this year has given Helps a new perspective, and she says she'll submit a formal motion to council to tell BCLC the city no longer supports the idea.
"Since the time that we passed the motion originally in 2015 and now, there's too much information that's come out with regard to money laundering, trafficking in fentanyl, organized crime," she said. "I don't think we need that in Victoria."
B.C. Attorney General David Eby released a bombshell independent report over the summer that found B.C. casinos unwittingly served as money launderers for international organized crime for years.
That study centered on the River Rock Casino in Richmond, which was found to have accepted $13.5-million in $20 bills in just one month in 2015.
At the time, Eby said the wide-scale money laundering was also tied to the province's crippling opioid crisis that has killed thousands of people, as well as the real estate crisis.
Helps said she was always "lukewarm" to the idea of a downtown casino, but after the report came out, it didn't make sense to proceed.
"Why would we invite that into Victoria? It doesn't make any sense," she said.
She expects the motion to pass in council, and said the city would not face any backlash or financial penalty from BCLC for not going ahead with the proposal.
BCLC has said it is taking steps to ensure money laundering is gone from all B.C. casinos, telling CTV News in a statement: "BCLC is working alongside government and industry partners to implement recommendations from the Dr. Peter German review on anti-money laundering policies and practices in B.C. casinos."
View Royal Mayor David Screech says there have been no reports of money laundering at his community's Elements Casino, which recently underwent an expansion.
Not only that, Screech said that the more-than-$4-million in revenue the casino generates for local governments is a jackpot, helping pay for things like libraries, community grants, recreation and capital projects.
"I certainly feel confident that with the recommendations that were in the report and that are being acted on, that there's no issues," Screech said.
He said Victoria passing on another new casino in the Capital Region appears to be good news for the West Shore, since anyone wanting to gamble won't be able to go to a second location.
"From that perspective, it's a good thing for View Royal and for all the Western communities, for sure."
Council is slated to vote Thursday on whether to reject the casino in a formal letter to BCLC.