Part of The Big Gamble, a series examining British Columbia's complicated relationship with casinos.
Gambling in British Columbia is a billion-dollar business that is managed and regulated by two arms of government.
The B.C. Lottery Corporation controls all gambling venues (which are run by private companies licensed as service providers) and oversees financial administration, collecting net revenues of more than $1-billion for the government. One of the BCLC's responsibilities is to operate a voluntary self-exclusion (VSE) program, which is designed to help problem gamblers deal with their addiction by banning them from casinos for as long as three years and by guiding them into counselling. There are about 14 investigators in the province responsible for VSE, and about 3,000 gamblers a year are enrolled in the program.
The Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch has regulatory oversight of the BCLC, gambling service providers, lottery retailers and horse racing. The branch does criminal background and credit checks on more than 5,000 gambling employees, 2,000 lottery retailers and 700 horse-racing workers. It also routinely checks and certifies more than 500 types of gambling equipment. The GPEB has 25 inspectors who in 2011 opened more than 8,000 files for investigations into suspicious activity, including more than 1,545 claims for theft, 459 for money laundering, 602 for counterfeiting and 44 for loan sharking. More than 2,500 of those investigations were turned over to police because it was thought there were grounds for criminal charges.
The GPEB, which has an annual budget of about $13-million, has the power to obtain search warrants, seize equipment, freeze assets and cancel the registration of any gambling service provider who runs afoul of regulations.