High-Rollers Leave River Rock Casino after Crackdown

Monday, May 13th, 2019 | Written by April Bergman
High-Rollers Leave River Rock Casino after Crackdown

Last year, River Rock Casino in Richmond, British Columbia instituted a crackdown on money laundering high-rollers. Since River Rock launched the policy, it saw a drop in money spent on chips.

Since the crackdown, the BC casino’s table drop fell 12% in the first quarter to C$283 million ($210 million) when compared with the same period the previous year. Rod Baker, River Rock chief executive officer, said in an investor call thatVIP play is still down out here in B.C.

River Rock casino reported VIP-frequented table games like baccarat and blackjack became “a little more stable” following the rule change in January 2018. That hardly helped revenues, but made River Rock Casino better compared to the Hard Rock Casino.

The same cannot be said for the Hard Rock casino, in which Baker said it was “frankly much less broadly dispersed at the VIP level.”

Reestablishing Order

Allegedly, River Rock’s VIP customers were held to a different standard of behavior by casino management over what regular customers are. A new report shows that table dealers from high-roller tables have to deal with more often than not.

The report, conducted by Paladin, a security firm hired by the British Columbia Lottery Corp, found that over a dozen serious incidents occurred during the period studied. Incidents involved assault, sexual harassment, and threats towards dealers without ever being reported. Authorities stepped in after several instances of physical assault, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, death threats, and chair-throwing were reported.

Paladin Security conducted 460 interviews with the casino’s 1,200 workers regarding events that happened at the casino in 2017. During several of the interviews with dealers and supervisors, those interviewed said “verbal abuse bordering on uttering threats occurs daily, if not hourly.”

The VIP Treatment

The Dogwood Room, River Rock’s VIP lounge, consistently involved the most out of control behavior. Visitors to the VIP lounge exhibited “poor standards of player behavior and complicit supervisors and managers.”

According to the reports, “The most obvious concern for many interviewees is the belief that (River Rock) allows problematic behavior from its VIP guests to occur at a level it would not allow from its non-VIP guests.”

One of the employees discussed an incident in which a drunk VIP physically assaulted a staff member. The report stated the he was instructed by casino managers to write out a $2,000 check as a penalty in order to resolve the problem. River Rock Casino employees stated that “VIP players can do whatever they want. They [River Rock] just allow it to happen.”

British Columbia AG Involved

David Eby, British Columbia Attorney General, publicly called for a code of conduct for the casino. Eby said the new behavior rules should include all gamblers throughout the entire casino. That includes VIP gamblers, holding them to the same expectation.

Eby described the penalties a gambler would face if those expectations were not met or rules were broken. He said, “I found it concerning the idea that there was a different level of treatments for people in the VIP room than the floor. The VIPs are spending money, the customers with more money get more attention and it’s a bigger deal if they’re banned from the facility.”

David Eby’s Casino Policies

Since Eby came into office in 2015, he made it his mission to clean up the British Columbia casino industry. Previously, the BC casino sector swarmed with gamblers involved in dirty cash scandals and money-laundering for international criminal syndicates.

According to the AG’s office, part of the problem is that casino management and authorities continually overlooked the money-laundering gamblers. Over time, unchallenged abuse with no repercussions led to an escalation of abuse. According to a 2016 police report, claimed the River Rock Casino “fostered a culture of accepting large bulk cash transactions.”

Rampant Money Laundering

Due to lax anti-money laundering policies, organized crime appeared to be driving much of the VIP gaming activities. Several key incidents pointed directly to money laundering activities.

VIP players bought bulk cash amounts in suitcases and hockey bags that burst at the seams with money. One infamous case included bags of money exchanged in the valet parking zone. The 2016 report pointed directly at River Rock’s policies. It stated that, “Source of funds and/or source of wealth information is not gathered for high risk, high volume cash players”.

In the past three years, authorities implemented new rules to ensure a more secure system of identifying the sources of all funds.

The River Rock Casino parent company, Great Canadian Gaming, contradicted the hundreds of interviews. In an official statement, Great Canadian Gaming claimed it maintained, “No tolerance for any type of conduct that may put the safety or security of any person at risk.”