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Blackjack at the River Rock Casino in Richmond, B.C. June 11, 2009.

John Lehmann/ The Globe and Mail

The B.C. government needs to find out more about criminal activity, especially money laundering, at the province's casinos, says a report that recommends the creation of a task force to gather intelligence on the activity.

The task force would be aimed at determining the types and scale of crime at B.C. casinos and is one of 10 recommendations in the report on measures to fight money laundering at the gaming facilities.

Its author, Rob Kroeker of the province's Civil Forfeiture Office, called for the creation of the multi-agency force to probe suspicious activities and transactions.

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Mr. Kroeker said his report, released on Wednesday, did not look into the extent of money laundering at B.C. casinos because his mandate didn't require that.

He said a task force would deal with those issues. Its members would include police and representatives of the agencies that regulate gaming in the province.

The Ministry of the Solicitor-General ordered a review of strategies against money laundering used at B.C. gaming facilities last January after media reports raised questions about large cash transactions in small denomination Canadian currency – $20 bills.

Mr. Kroeker's review found the B.C. Lottery Corp. and the province's Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch have appropriate strategies to monitor money laundering, but a task force could provide more knowledge.

"At the end of its mandate, the task force would report to the province on the types and the magnitude of any criminal activity it found occurring in relation to gaming in B.C.," he said at a news conference.

Mr. Kroeker's report did not dispute that cash, and often large amounts of it, are present at B.C. casinos, but he recommended the lottery corporation and its enforcement branch embrace electronic banking to a larger extent and offer cheques rather than cash for customers.

Opposition New Democrat critic Shane Simpson said the report did not go far enough.

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It barely touched on money laundering and appears still to welcome large cash transactions at casinos, the issue that prompted the original concerns, he said.

"They're going to encourage non-cash transactions, but there's going to be nothing that actually says to somebody, 'You can't bring a suitcase full of $20s into the casino to cash it out,'" Mr. Simpson said.

The report also recommended better staff training to ensure workers are aware of what constitutes money laundering and suggests more formal involvement of police in auditing and investigating what goes on in casinos.

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