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By M. Samuel Anderson and John Devine
News analysis & commentary
While we at Awakening News (AWN) are tempted to say “we told you so,” it’s sufficient to note that Canada’s mainline media outlets are only now catching up to what AWN has been saying for several years: There indeed are problems, including apparent money laundering, in Ontario’s casinos, not just in British Columbia’s casinos.
In the latter part of 2018, AWN commented on reports that B.C. Attorney General David Eby was looking into strong indications of money laundering in B.C.’s casinos. And that laundering is seen as a key contributing factor in B.C.’s housing prices being among the highest in both North America and the world at-large.
However, AWN at that time in 2018 also was apparently alone in calling for turning the spotlight toward Ontario—and toward other provinces, as needed.
Furthermore, AWN made nearly constant phone calls and sent letters to mainline media and public officials to recommend that the B.C. probe be broadened to include Ontario—and that it be broadened to include other matters besides money laundering, including:
- Physical (even sexual) assaults of staff by unruly casino patrons;
- Labour law violations in casinos;
- And, among other things, violations of intellectual property laws.
It only made sense to AWN in 2018 to include Ontario in this probe, since it is by far the most populous province with a larger gambling footprint than any other province. According to a recent audio broadcast by Global News’ production called “Wait There’s More,” of the $46 billion laundered thru Canada last year , only $7.4 billion of that was laundered through B.C. That means $38.6 billion was not even laundered through B.C.
So, the question is, why wasn’t the probe expanded beyond B.C. a year ago. Why are we just hearing about this now?
TOR STAR MEDIA UNCOOPERATIVE
Back in 2017, AWN, on Oct. 31, emailed the Toronto Star when one of our editors was visiting Toronto. That email was followed up with a call to this large daily newspaper on Nov. 2, 2017 regarding Ontario MPP Patrick Brown who, at that time in the Ontario legislature, debated the sitting premier, Kathleen Wynne, about potential money laundering concerns—in Ontario.
When the AWN editor tried to convey MPP Brown’s concerns to the Star, the phone attendant claimed to not even know who MPP Brown was! And when asked to get an editorial supervisor on the line, the attendant simply stonewalled any further conversation. AWN never heard back from the Star regarding Brown’s concerns over Ontario money laundering.
The CBC, while briefly visiting the issue, posted an Oct. 30, 2017 report showing that the Progressive Conservatives, of which MPP Brown was a member until his early-2018 downfall, demand that the Ontario government put its deal on hold with Great Canadian Gaming Corporation to run casinos in the Greater Toronto Area amid the investigation into alleged money laundering in British Columbia casinos.
Then, in August 2018, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) announced that Great Canadian Gaming Corporation and Brookfield Business Partners LP were chosen to run three casinos—OLG Slots at Woodbine, OLG Slots at Ajax Downs, and the Great Blue Heron Casino.
But the following month, B.C. Attorney General David Eby announced the province was launching a review of the gambling industry and its policies regarding money laundering.
Ever since latter 2017, AWN’s communications have been ignored or snubbed. Not one journalist or public official acknowledged our correspondence.
And Ontario evidently has been undeterred and has carried on with gambling expansions that cannot help but capture the attention of money-launderers, regardless of Liberal Wynne or Conservative Ford being at the helm.
Thus, AWN readers may want to place calls or send emails or overland letters to Ford’s office to ask why Ontario has been so lax about this issue, going back to at least later 2017 when B.C. was already making noise about money laundering concerns (see Ford’s contact info. at the end of this article).
AWN CORRESPONDING WITH B.C.’s CULLEN COMMISSION
However, as of February 2020, AWN heard from an attorney for the Cullen Commission, in response to a formal letter of inquiry AWN sent to the Commission as it tools up to get to the bottom of money laundering in B.C.—something that affects a broad swath of society due to money laundering’s effects on housing prices and several other things.
See this link for our recent detailed report on the Commission’s plans.
Some Basic Facts
B.C. housing prices are at least 4 times what prospective millennial home buyers can afford;
B.C. properties were used as piggy banks for $5 billion in dirty money just last year;
And mainline media accounts say that the laundered money ends up in offshore banks and is then funneled back to Bear Trusts in Canada, with which the actual owners of properties can be hidden from police and other authorities. These trusts normally are used to enable parents to leave property to their kids and get around some inheritance taxes, for instance. But these trusts can be abused.
LEARN ABOUT ‘THE WILSON LETTER’
Interestingly, Ontario’s New Democrats (NDP) want Ontario Premier Doug Ford to investigate the rising number of “suspicious cash transactions” at casinos across the province, following a Global News investigation.
But here’s the “rub.” Ford’s office, as we understand it, still has on file what we at AWN call the “Wilson letter,” which MPP Jim Wilson in February 2015 (five years ago this month) sent to former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Wilson’s letter was adjoined to a packet of documented allegations about significant corrupt practices at an Ontario gaming establishment known as Casino Rama near Orillia. (Editor’s note for clarity: Wilson received the packet, compiled by former casino worker and AWN Associate Editor John Devine, and then Wilson forwarded the packet, along with his own letter, to Wynne).
Efforts to get Ford’s office to acknowledge the Wilson letter’s existence, much less its content, also were of no avail, presumably because Ford knew mainline media (who also were made aware of the Wilson letter) were going to stay silent anyway.
Above is an image of Wilson’s letter. You can also see it by going to this link and scroll down to “Tab 8,” which is part of a detailed overview of the circumstances that led to the creation of Awakening News (AWN), formerly the “World’s Apart” newsletter. The part of the Wilson letter about politicians “allowing corruption to fester” was largely a reference to detailed information provided by AWN to Wilson about problems inside casinos, long before mainline media starting paying closer attention to casino issues.
As AWN has repeatedly pointed out, big money goes from the casino establishment to the ad budgets of Canada’s media, so it takes a lot for the establishment press to say much about casino problems. Global News, and especially its reporter Sam Cooper, is a rare exception to the rule—apparently.
“Data obtained exclusively by Global News showed suspicious cash investigations by Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) at casinos jumped from 945 in 2017 to 2,266 in 2018 — a roughly 140 per cent increase . . . . The data, obtained under freedom of information laws, show suspicious transaction investigations, which include potential money laundering, continued to trend higher in 2019, with 1,327 investigations in the first seven months of the year,” Global News reported, while claiming that suspected money laundering in Ontario, to whatever degree, supposedly spiked only after the “B.C. casino crackdown.”
Meanwhile, Taras Natyshak, the NDP’s critic for ethics and accountability, was quoted as saying: “We don’t want criminals who faced a crackdown on money laundering in other provinces to see Ontario as a regulation-lite place where they can thrive.”
That statement calls into question the general statements Ontario officials have been giving Global News about how Ontario has been, and continues to be, well-prepared to ward off money laundering in the province’s casinos.
“Ontario takes the integrity of gaming seriously, which is why we have strong anti-money-laundering and fraud protection processes in place,” Ministry of Finance spokesperson Scott Blodgett was quoted as saying.
Blodgett also claimed that Ontario’s anti-money-laundering regulations are among the toughest in the country, while adding that the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation are “continually looking at Ontario’s regulatory framework and how it can be improved.”
MEDIA ON THE TAKE?
But meanwhile, the money keeps flowing from casino coffers to news pages and broadcast mediums to advertise gambling, in a country that long ago decided to “place its bets” on widespread gambling being “good” for the economy. Yet, now, in Toronto as well as Vancouver and elsewhere, the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost as the expanding gambling culture in Canada plays a clear role in making Canadians poorer.
As important as the money laundering question is, a more fundamental question is this: How far will Canada allow this probe of the gambling industry to go, given the built-in incentives to protect the huge revenues it brings to government coffers and media ad budgets?
SOME SUGGESTED READER ACTIONS:
Call the office of Premier Ford and either ask about the Wilson letter and documentation packet or, better yet, email or overland mail a copy of the letter.
Ford’s website: https://www.ola.org/en/members/all/doug-ford
Ford’s Legislative office:
Premier’s Office, Room 281
Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1
Ford’s Ministry office:
Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1
Ford’s Constituency office:
823 Albion Rd.
Etobicoke, ON M9V 1A3
We also suggest that readers contact local and national media and /or simply electronically forward them this AWN article—in order to call for not only a nationwide money laundering probe, but also a national discussion on whether such a widespread presence of gambling in Canada is doing more harm than good.
Here are some of the media contacts who were made aware of the bigger picture regarding corruption and wrongdoing at Canadian casinos but gave every indication they weren’t interested in AWN’s information.
- Toronto Star
Regular phone: (416) 869-4300
- Harold Munro, Post Media
Phone: (604) 605-2185
- Dave Dawson, Orillia Matters
Phone: 705-558-9595 Ext. 1155
- Dave Bradley, CFRB 1010
Phone: 416 384 5858