Is the government in cahoots with BC casinos to cover bury money-laundering scandal?
Some certainly seem to think so, after a labor group is reportedly being charged a ludicrous fee to release files under the Freedom of Information (FOI) clause.
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Unite Here, the labor union that represents casino workers in British Columbia, submitted an FOI request for documents surrounding alleged money laundering at certain casinos in the province. According to reports, the government responded by issuing them a bill for more than half a million dollars.
BC Casinos Under the Microscope
As you my know, some BC Canada casinos are under the scrutiny of a very thick microscope. Accusations of money-laundering, and illegal efforts to cover it up, are flying around like sea gulls in a tornado of stale frites.
The media has hit them hardest of all. So hard, in fact, that casino operators are beseeching the government to halt the release of any further information. But that, according to law, may not be an option.
The 1982 Access to Information Act gives all Canadian citizens, long-term residents and corporations the right to request copies of government documents. The government institution that houses the document(s) is under legal obligation to reply within 30 days.
There are some exemptions to the FOI Act, particularly files considered confidential to the Cabinet. But Unite Here’s request for BC casino files does not fall under that category. However, the government is within its rights to charge a fee for the disclosure of documents, based on the man-power and time it takes to gather them.
If You Can’t Beat Them, Over-Charge Them
Unite Here is asking for documents held by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), the regulatory body that oversees all gambling activities in the province. The request calls for all files relating to potential money laundering at four BC casinos between November 2012 – November 2017.
The casinos in question include River Rock Casino, Casino Nanaimo, Hard Rock Casino and Hastings Park Casino. They are all operated by Great Canadian Gaming Corp (GCGC).
In response, the BCLC estimates that it will take 16,817 hours of searching through documents to compile the information request. Calculating an apparent $30 per hour fee, the price tag a whopping $504,510. Furthermore, the BCLC is demanding approximately half of the payment, $252,240 upfront.
Unite Here Coordinator Mac Hollin, who initiated the FOI request, says he was “flabbergasted” by the BCLC’s response. He believes the FOI fee is far beyond any reasonable limit, calling it “prohibitively high”. Hollin suggests that BCLC is deliberately over-charging as a “deterrent to accessing information.”
The unite Here Coordinator came to the inevitable conclusion that the government’s true intention is to block the FOI request; if not by law, by making it outlandishly inaccessible.
BC Canada Casinos Getting Their Way?
There is some evidence to support Hollin’s theory that the government is in cahoots with BC casinos . Case in point, a request from River Rock Casino last November. The prime target of the media, River Rock filed a court action seeking to halt further disclosure of documents to Postmedia.
GCGC claims that the first phase of document disclosures were in violation of FOI laws. They allege those files contain confidential information about its business operations. “GCGC will suffer irreparable harm if the phase two disclosure is released without (the company) being provided with an opportunity to make the representation it is statutorily entitled to make,” reads the court petition.
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