Ontario’s gambling regulator as a bone to pick with the new online gambling liberalization. It means something major coming from Canada’s largest province. It is all there in the 2020 Annual Report from the Auditor General that claims the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) “lacks operational transparency on its financial and regulatory activities.”
This is a big problem for the body that oversees the province’s alcohol, gaming, horse-racing and retail cannabis operations.
According to the Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, the number of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) at Ontario casinos is up 19% to 3,722 over the period of 2017-2019. Of note, the dodgy transactions had doubled to C$340m (US$265.7m).
Provincial police in casinos haven’t helped matters nor have they fostered gaming integrity or investigated suspected money laundering. On four occasions during this time period, the AGCO only seized a modest amount of cash and barred only 38 individuals from setting foot on one casino gaming floor.
The jig is up
Now there is a major surge in STRs, no doubt due to additional criminal money-laundering activities. British Columbia has already cracked down on these violations, and the perpetrators are relocating to Ontario.
British Columbia finally admitted that the jig was up after an host embarrassing media exposés shed light the rampant neglect of suspicious transactions.
Lysyk said that AGCO
“had identified money laundering as a major risk in casinos and recognized gaps
in its regulatory processes but had not develop a plan to address those gaps.”
The scathing report identified 686 electronic gaming machines in Ontario casinos that are not part of the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation (OLG). These machines are vulnerable to “software tampering that could affect payout odds.”
While AGCO relies on the private operator of OLG’s PlayOLG online gambling site to monitor online casino payout ratios, AGCO should directly monitor payouts of both land-based and online gaming products.
It is a vast sphere to monitor given the 745 internationally licensed companies offering around 2,200 online gambling sites that compete with OLG’s PlayOLG site. No action has yet been taken against its international rivals.
Licensing private operators will certainly open this market and control wrongdoing. AGCO will soon have the “authority to conduct and manage iGaming, in addition to having the role of the regulator.” In fact, the AGCO would “manage the relationship between the government and private iGaming operators.”
The Auditor General is not entirely onboard and warns of a conflict of interest..
“The AGCO would have both regulatory responsibilities and
operational/revenue-generating responsibilities through its
subsidiary, which could be perceived as a conflict of interest.”