New study ties gambling to financial crime
Larry Johnsrude, Edmonton Journal, Apr 17, 2003

EDMONTON - The rise in legal gambling in Alberta is linked to gambling-related crime, including money-laundering, fraud and counterfeiting, says a new study. An 18-month review of city police files identified 680 criminal offences related to gambling, such as fraud and employee theft to support gambling habits, as well as three suicides from despair over gambling addictions.

"This is probably just the tip of the iceberg," said Garry Smith, research specialist with the Gaming Research Institute at the University of Alberta. Smith, who has conducted a number of studies on the impact of the proliferation of casinos and video-lottery terminals in Alberta, reviewed files of Edmonton city police and Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission investigators covering a period from January 2001 to July 2002 to identify crimes related to the gambling industry. Smith's 111-page report is being released today.

Three Edmonton suicides and one attempted suicide were the result of problem gambling during the 18-month study period, according to police files. There were 95 suicides in the city during that time. The provincial government has commissioned a separate study by Athabasca University on the the link between suicides and problem gambling.

That follows news reports quoting provincewide statistics from the coroner's office suggesting problem gambling was the cause of 10 per cent of suicides in Alberta in 2001 and 2002. The most common gambling-related crimes were fraud, theft, forgery and embezzlement to cover losses, Smith said. "By and large, the people responsible aren't criminal types, but they get desperate and have access to money that isn't theirs." The two largest single cases of employee theft during the 18 months of the study involved sums of $166,000 and $127,000, he said. The study does not tabulate the total amount of money lost through fraud and theft. However, the figures are being used as a way to measure future trends in determining whether gambling-related crime is increasing.

The Alberta government makes more than $1 billion from gambling each year.

Casinos are also being hit by insider crime, the study said. Managers of one unidentified casino thwarted a $141,000 fraud attempt when a dealer was caught on camera passing a royal flush to a collaborator at a poker table. There were also numerous other cases of casino employees overpaying collaborators for winning hands. City police records indicated casino transactions accounted for 27 per cent of counterfeit money seized in Edmonton during the 18 months of the study.

Police also believe casinos provide criminals the opportunity to launder money. "Some of the biggest high rollers in Edmonton are drug dealers," Smith said. "They buy into a card game, play for a while, and cash out. Then when police asks one of them how he can afford to drive a Maserati, all he has to say is that he's been lucky at gambling."

To view the report go to:

24.The Lottery and DRUG WAR & PEACE

Jackie Jura
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