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Attorney General David Eby speaks to reporters in Victoria on Sept. 18, 2017.CHAD HIPOLITO/The Canadian Press

The B.C. government will appoint an expert to review money laundering at Lower Mainland casinos after a report found large volumes of unsourced cash were easily accepted.

The report, completed last year but only publicly released on Friday, said law enforcement has indicated the money could be proceeds of crime and the majority of it was "presented by persons commonly referred to as high-roller Asian VIP clients." The report said cash buy-ins of more than $500,000 had been accepted at Richmond's River Rock Casino Resort.

"We are serious about doing everything we can to identify money-laundering activities, and ensure policies are in place to prevent it from occurring in B.C. casinos," Attorney-General David Eby wrote in a statement.

Mr. Eby will announce the appointment of an independent expert in the coming weeks.

Jim Lightbody, president of the BC Lottery Corporation, which oversees the province's casino operations, in a statement said it has "zero tolerance for criminals who may attempt to target our business.

"If there is something more we can do to improve the anti-money-laundering efforts in B.C., we'll do it," he said.

The report was prepared by accounting firm MNP and delivered in July, 2016, to the former Liberal government. Mr. Eby said the report should have been made public when completed.

It said B.C.'s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch grew concerned after $13.5-million in $20 bills was accepted at River Rock in July, 2015. The report said money that could not be traced, from unknown persons, was dropped off for patrons at the casino or just outside casino property at odd times, generally late at night.

The report said the majority of the high-risk patrons at River Rock were Chinese nationals. It also said many were recent immigrants to Canada, although it also said those playing with significant cash had non-Canadian addresses. The report later said those using unsourced funds were wealthy non-residents, or business persons with interests in both Vancouver and China, who were coming to the Lower Mainland to gamble.

The Attorney-General's ministry, when asked about the discrepancy, said due diligence must be applied no matter where a patron resides.

The report said the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch should consider implementing a policy that requires casinos to refuse unsourced cash deposits exceeding a certain threshold. It also recommended the enforcement branch and the lottery corporation support cash alternatives such as wire transfers, and that the lottery corporation both collect more information on high-risk patrons and re-evaluate its anti-money-laundering training program.

The ministry said in a statement that since the report was completed there has been a general downward trend in unsourced cash entering B.C. casinos.

It said tens of millions of dollars in cash transactions have been refused under the lottery corporation's programs in recent years and 150 customers have been placed on specific restrictions when it comes to unsourced funds. It said an additional 150 customers are restricted in other ways and the lottery corporation has banned 276 high-risk individuals from casinos since 2014 in a bid to keep the facilities free of criminal influences.

The ministry said the enforcement branch has considered all of the report's recommendations and advised the lottery corporation to establish sources of funds before accepting cash.

In its partly redacted response, also released on Friday, the lottery corporation said it has been introducing cash alternative payment options since 2012 and fully complied with information requirements for high-risk patrons. It said it improved its anti-money-laundering training program this year.

The report said River Rock fostered a culture of accepting large cash transactions and was affected by high staff turnover.

Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, which owns the River Rock casino, in a statement wrote it "strictly adheres to all regulatory requirements and maintains the highest standards of reporting at our properties."

It said it welcomed the independent review.

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