Part of The Big Gamble, a series examining British Columbia’s complicated relationship with casinos.
Despite the efforts of the B.C. Lottery Corp. to guide problem gamblers into treatment programs, gambling addiction remains a serious issue in the province. Research indicates B.C. has more than 31,000 “severe problem gamblers,” and court records show that when people become gambling addicts, it can tear apart their lives – and the lives of others. Below are some of those stories:
Linda Rinehart of Port Coquitlam pleaded guilty in 2004 to misappropriating $323,000 from the small business where she was a bookkeeper. Court ruled she embezzled the money “in the midst of at least an active four-year gambling addiction.”
That same year, Raymond Wong participated with several others in the kidnapping of Jackie Lee, whom they threatened to torture and kill if $150,000 ransom wasn’t paid. Court heard Mr. Wong needed money to pay his gambling debts.
Robert Walowina pleaded guilty in 2006 to fraudulently obtaining merchandise from several Vancouver businesses. He told court he had become depressed after being passed over for a promotion at work and “sought relief from these problems by increasingly involving himself in casino gambling, which predictably, led to financial difficulty.”
In 2006, Rong Lilly Li, a Richmond loan shark and an employee of the River Rock Casino, was lured into a van near the gambling facility. Chu Ming Feng, 29, and his accomplice, Gou Wei Liang, thought Ms. Li, 40, would have $300,000 on her. Court heard they strangled her, but found she had only $500 in cash and $2,000 in casino chips, which they stole before burying her body at Jericho Beach.
Betty Yan, who dropped her three children off every morning at West Point Grey Academy, was shot and killed in her Mercedes in Richmond in April, 2009. She was known to be connected to Asian organized crime and worked as a loan shark. Police said Ms. Yan used her children as a human shield, keeping them close to her when she knew her life was in danger.
In June, 2011, Joon Woo Lim, 33, pleaded guilty to four counts of robbery while armed with an offensive weapon. Before his crimes, he had no contact with police and was “a well-respected father, husband and prominent member of his church.” But, fuelled by methamphetamine, he went on a crime spree, assaulting and robbing several women, including one who had a six-month-old baby with her. Court heard his life spun out of control after he developed financial problems because of his gambling addiction.
In August, 2011, Jonathan Bacon, a notorious gang leader, was shot and killed in front of the Delta Grand Hotel, a Kelowna casino resort. In an unrelated case, David Giles, vice-president of the Hells Angels Kelowna chapter, was arrested at the Grand Villa Casino and Hotel in Burnaby in August, 2012.
In 2012, Craig Morrison and Dennis Wells were convicted of defrauding the Aboriginal Council of B.C. and the B.C. Aboriginal Fisheries Commission of nearly $1-million. Court heard the two men had drinking and gambling problems.