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Gambling on Real Estate

Gambling Institutions need the same oversight as Financial Institutions - or more. As BC continues to look into the extent of the impact of money laundering into our province - now focusing on the real estate market - the obvious systemic issue is being overlooked.

The province is assigning Peter German once again to head the investigation. You'll remember him for looking into the casinos and concluding "only" $100 million was laundered over 10 years, and refusing to back down after it was brought to light he might be at least a little conflicted. In case you don't want to follow that link; it was uncovered he sits on a Board with a Casino executive at one of the primary targets of the investigation. And his 247 page report seems impressive until you realize a document of that size is purposefully designed to be unreadable.

How can British Columbians be confident anything helpful will come of this additional, expensive review? If the investigation into the casinos revealed anything, it's that even if the issue becomes the focus of a media news cycle or two no one will ultimately be held accountable. BC Lottery - the group tasked with monitoring casinos - vaguely committed to incorporating Peter German's report findings into future oversight.

What were they doing before?

The answer is patently obvious: profiting from the proceeds of crime.

There are some pretty strict laws against allowing yourself to contribute to criminal activity, and negligence is not grounds for pardon. The Big Banks of Canada are watched vigilantly by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), while BC Credit Unions are overseen by the Financial Institutions Commission (FICOM). Despite their shortcomings (which I will surely write about at some point), both of these regulators are part of banking systems considered to be among the best in the world at protecting consumers.

So perhaps it's finally time we treat gambling establishments as financial institutions and start holding them to AT LEAST the standards we expect everywhere else large sums of money are changing hands. Or we can continue to allow criminal enterprises to decimate our economic well-being.

- Denis Flinn

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