Northern Exposure: Windsor Casino Bidding, FINTRAC Issues Special Advisory For Online Gambling

Each week, Canada Sports Betting recaps all the top sports betting and iGaming news in Canada and highlights upcoming events.

Our top stories this week

Event of the week

UFC 297 – Toronto

The UFC returns to Toronto for the first time in more than five years on Saturday.

The event will be headlined by a middleweight championship bout between American champion Sean Strickland and South African challenger Dricus Du Plessis. A second title will also be decided at the event in the women’s bantamweight division when Raquel Pennington takes on Mayra Bueno Silva.

Plenty of Canadian talent will be on display at Scotiabank Arena, including a pair of Canadians – Mike Malott (-400 favourite against Neil Magny at NorthStar Bets) and Marc-Andre Barriault (+150 underdog vs. Chris Curtis) – on the main card. Prelim bouts will feature six more Canadian fighters.

Canadian fighters went a combined 5-0 when the UFC returned to Canada at UFC 289 in Vancouver this past summer.

Check back with Canada Sports Betting on Friday for a full betting preview of UFC 297!

Caesars Windsor bidding

Last October, The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation issued a RFP (request for proposals) for private operators to bid on the day-to-day operations of the Windsor Casino, currently being handled by Caesars Windsor.

According to a report from The Globe and Mail, OLG is now in the final stages of reviewing bids and there are three frontrunners: Caesars, Bally’s, and Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment. Caesars, which has handled the day-to-day operations of the Windsor Casino for 30 years, is the preferred operator of local politicians, tourism executives, and union officials, according to the report.

Last January, Caesars Windsor debuted a new retail sportsbook on the grounds, one of the first of its kind in Ontario. Caesars also has digital platforms for iCasino and sports betting available to online bettors in province.

Caesars is one of the largest gambling companies in the world and operates 53 casinos globally. Bally’s operates 15 casinos, and Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment runs eight casinos, including two in Niagara Falls on behalf of OLG.

A couple of interesting financial highlights from The Globe‘s article:

  • Last year, the OLG took in $4.2-billion from its 30 casinos. The cash was evenly split, with $2.1-billion going to provincial coffers and $2.1-billion paid out to Caesars and the other companies that run the properties. To put that figure in perspective, Ontario received $2.29-billion from the government-owned liquor retailer, the LCBO.
  • The OLG pays a portion of its casino revenues directly to the city of Windsor, handing over a total of $88-million over the past three decades. The quarterly payments amount to 2.5 per cent of the city’s annual budget.

The OLG put the contract out to tender last April and it has been restructuring more favourable contracts on behalf of the province for its Ontario casinos over the past decade. The process is meant to be confidential, so OLG and interested parties won’t be commenting until a formal decision is made, likely this fall.

FINTRAC’s special online gambling advisory

On Thursday, a special advisory was issued by FINTRAC, Canada’s national financial intelligence unit as well as its anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regulator, on laundering the proceeds of crime through both unregulated, and regulated, online gambling sites.

The advisory specifically points out money laundering indicators for licensed Canadian online gambling sites. FINTRAC is cautioning that criminals may seek to exploit licensed online gambling sites, in addition to unregulated sites, by using a number of tactics including:

  • Money launderers attempt to subvert or mislead online gambling sites’ “know your client” process, in order to conceal their identity and/or the source of their funds. In some cases, this involved the provision of false, stolen, and misleading information to gambling operators—including forged identity and/or income verification documents. In other cases, money launderers would provide information that is mismatched (e.g. a player’s credit card or bank account details did not match their registration details).
  • Money launderers have opportunities to conceal the source of their funds by using multiple different deposit and withdrawal methods. For example, a commonly observed typology involved the purchase of prepaid cards/vouchers using suspected proceeds of crime, which were used to deposit funds into gambling accounts, followed by withdrawals through wire or e-transfer to a Canadian bank account under the guise of gambling winnings.
  • Minimal gambling activity before withdrawal is a common money laundering method used by criminals both at online and brick-and-mortar casinos.
  • Sudden changes in depositing/withdrawal activity, such as sudden and uncharacteristic spikes in deposits.
  • Suspicious activity at sports betting sites can include unusual betting activity that cannot be explained, or activity that is indicative of match fixing or other illicit activity. Evidence of account sharing, where a gambling account is accessed from locations that are inconsistent with the client’s registered address or log-in history, further indicates that the gambling account is being used for pass-through activity.

FINTRAC says its special bulletins provide information related to new, emerging, and particularly topical methods of money laundering and terrorist activity financing.

In its Standards For Internet Gaming, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario outlines its requirements for minimizing unlawful activity relating to gaming in sections 6.01, 6.02, and 6.03. Operators partaking in Ontario’s regulated igaming market must have parameters in place to monitor suspicious player activity and potential money laundering threats. They also have an obligation to share copies of any reports filed with FINTRAC with the AGCO.

Money laundering has historically been an issue at brick-and-mortar casinos across Canada, as evidenced by the Cullen Report, a culmination of a three-year investigation commissioned by the province of British Columbia that confirmed an “astounding amount of dirty money” was laundered through local casinos between 2008-2018. And experts in the anti-money laundering field have warned that Ontario is “highly vulnerable” to similar threats.