Ontario launches task force on money laundering as casinos reopen
Posted: July 17, 2021, 10:33 a.m.
Last update on: July 17, 2021, 10:33 a.m.
While the majority of Ontario casinos reopened on Friday as Canada’s most populous province took another step toward fully reopening the COVID-19 pandemic, gaming officials there launched a new initiative to fight against money laundering schemes.
A task force established by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will monitor cash transactions that take place at casinos. The move comes a year after Canadian financial authorities noted large and nearly identical declines in casino disbursements and reports of large cash transactions.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, and the associated closures and physical distancing measures, have disrupted some methods of money laundering, particularly those that rely on placing illicit cash in cash-intensive businesses,” reports a July 2020 report from Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis. Central Canada (FINTRAC) said.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) will team up with AGCO to monitor cash transactions at casinos.
Money laundering has no place in Ontario’s gaming industry, ”said Ian Messenger, OLG anti-money laundering director. “As customers return to casinos and gaming sites across the province, we will work closely with our AGCO and OPP colleagues to proactively identify suspected illegal cash and ensure that that appropriate action is taken using our capabilities and those of our working group partners. “
In April, Global News revealed that the number of suspicious cash transactions at Ontario casinos has skyrocketed in recent years. After only 134 such investigations reported in 2015, the next two years saw more than 1,900 combined. In 2018, there were 2,266 cases, with authorities estimating a similar number for 2019.
Each case, according to the report, could cover multiple transactions at multiple casinos.
Gateway Casinos join with Great Canadian to reopen first
Friday was the first day casinos could open in the province as Ontario entered Stage 3 of its plan to reopen.
For Great Canadian Gaming Corp., 11 of the company’s casinos have reopened, allowing thousands of workers to return to work.
Ontario regulations allow casinos to reopen at 50% capacity during Stage 3.
11 casinos owned by Gateway Casinos and Entertainment also reopened on Friday. The Gateway casinos in London, Woodstock and Innisfil – which all operate 24 hours a day – reopened after the stroke of midnight early Friday morning. The rest opened later in the morning.
“We are delighted to finally reopen casinos and community gaming centers across the province and once again welcome our employees and valued customers to a very safe gaming and dining environment,”Gateway CEO Tony Santo said in a statement.
Casino Rama is the only Gateway casino in Ontario that remains closed. The company said the resort on Lake Simcoe 70 miles north of Toronto will reopen on July 29.
Caesars and Niagara Casinos announce reopening dates
Casino Rama isn’t the only Ontario casino to reopen later. In fact, three major sites in the south of the region are planning to reopen next week. All three will do so for the first time since the start of the pandemic more than 16 months ago.
Caesars Windsor announced earlier this week that Canada’s largest casino complex will reopen on July 23. In the announcement, Caesars said players won’t need reservations, but must register before entering.
Additionally, Caesars Windsor will only have certain slots and limited dining options. The casino across the border from Detroit plans to reopen its table games on July 28, pending regulatory approval.
In Niagara Falls, the Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara will also reopen on July 23. The two will also be hosting invitation-only events next Wednesday and Thursday.
Similar to Caesars, neither of the two Niagara casinos will have table games immediately. Fallsview expects the table games to be available on July 30. It is not known when Casino Niagara will resume its table games and poker room.
Earlier this month, before Ontario officials moved the Stage 3 launch date forward, gaming and tourism officials pleaded with provincial leaders to give casinos advice to help them get started. plan their reopening strategies. Officials added that reopening Niagara’s two casinos will bring back thousands of workers.
Not all Ontario casinos are ready to open
Even when these sites open, there will be other Ontario casinos that will remain closed. This includes the Rideau Carleton Casino in Ottawa. The Rideau Carleton harness race track has reopened and is open to fans at 25 percent of capacity in outdoor areas.
“While we understand the province has indicated that casinos may be able to reopen, we still have not received clear information on the restrictions, so there is no firm reopening date,” the casino’s website stated.