Ontario casinos recorded $372M in suspicious transactions in 2022, according to Freedom of Information requests made by CTV News. Critics are now calling for urgent action, saying that it is alarming and that more needs to be done proactively.
Ontario casino officials insist that the high number is an indication that casino staff is reporting suspicious transactions rigorously. However, NDP critic for the Attorney-General, Kristyn Wong-Tam, said that it is a major concern and that more needs to be done to keep dirty money out of casinos.
Indications of clear neglections
An affidavit tied to an OPP investigation revealed more than $4 million in suspicious casino buy-ins allegedly traced to one man, Branavan Kanapathipillai, who made 10 transactions ranging from $50,000 to $100,000, totaling $824,700 at the Pickering Casino Resort in July 2022.
According to reports, an individual with an unusually large amount of cash attempted to gamble at a casino, but the source of the cash was unclear. The report also pointed out that untraceable cash could be an indication of potential money laundering activities. Even with these red flags, the casino still accepted the cash. In fact, this was not an isolated incident, as at least three other casinos had accepted cash from the same individual since 2016.
Furthermore, the Toronto Gaming Anti-Money Laundering Unit investigated the individual in question, Kanapathipillai, after discovering suspicious transactions. The unit's investigation focused on the mismatch between Kanapathipillai's occupation and his high levels of casino gaming activity, as well as the significant number of large cash transactions he conducted. The unit deemed these activities suspicious and possibly indicative of money laundering.
Between October 30, 2021 and September 14, 2022, Kanapathipillai was reportedly involved in numerous financial transactions at One Toronto Gaming sites, including 48 large cash transactions that amounted to a total of $1,529,700, 38 casino disbursement reports that amounted to $1,348,115, as well as lower-level cash to chip transactions totalling $79,800 and lower-level chip-to-cash transactions totalling $37,500, according to the affidavit.
Casinos refuse to comment
In 2022, the AGCO made an announcement mandating casino operators to verify the source of funds of their patrons. However, despite the new rules, there are still concerns about the acceptance of $824,700 in cash at the Pickering Casino and Resort in July 2022. According to reports, it was unclear where the money came from, and the casino refused to comment on the matter.
As the pandemic waned and casinos reopened, the suspicious transaction totals soared to new heights, and critics say that more needs to be done to keep dirty money out of casinos. Ontario casinos are expected to generate $158 million for host communities, according to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming business plan.