Canadian undercover casino discovered
Dozens of people have been charged and millions of dollars in assets have been seized after Canadian police discovered a north Toronto mansion was a thriving underground gambling den.
York region police announced 74 charges on Wednesday connected to a months-long investigation into illegal gambling operations Ontario.
As well as making 29 arrests, police seized more than $10 million in assets, firearms, cash and high-end liquor, according to The Guardian.
“This is organised crime truly exploiting and demonstrating their money, their positions and opulence thinking somehow that they are above the law,” York police’s deputy chief, Brain Bigras, told reporters.
The main target of the raid was a 20,000 square foot mansion, sitting on a two-acre property in an affluent suburb of north York.
The upstairs rooms of the house were used as a bed and breakfast, but police say the basement had been transformed into a luxury underground casino and spa.
When 92 tactical officers stormed the property on July 23, they found dozens of gamblers at mahjong tables and slot machines, a full cash bar and a kitchen serving food including banned items such as shark fin.
Patrons were not following Covid-19 protocols, including wearing masks and maintaining physical distancing.
The owner of the operation, Wei Wei, faces a number of charges, including selling liquor without a permit, illegally possessing a firearm and operating a gambling establishment.
His wife, Xiang Yue Chan, was charged with keeping possession of proceeds of crime and selling liquor.
The couple’s two children were also charged with various crimes.
Along with more than $1 million worth of alcohol, police seized a number of firearms, including an AR-15 rifle with a 30-round magazine along with a handgun found in the bedroom of the mansion’s owner.
Police were forced to call off a previous attempted raid after aerial surveillance of the property showed that children were on the property.
Police believe the family was hosting a private event and had armed guards posted throughout the area.
Police also believe the mansion was the site of a potential sex trafficking operation and said the investigation is ongoing.
“The money moving through these underground casinos leads to huge profits for criminals that fund other ventures such as prostitution and drug trafficking,” the York region police chief, Jim MacSween, said in statement.
“This illegal high-stakes gambling also leads to gun violence, armed robberies, kidnappings, extortion and other serious violent offences within our community.”
Canada’s casinos slowly reopen after pandemic
The land-based casino sector in Canada is slowly gathering momentum after the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to gaming.
Calvin Ayre reported in early September, the Great Canadian Gaming Corp announced plans to reopen 11 casinos in Ontario that were ordered to shut in mid-March due to local COVID-19 infection rates.
The venues are scheduled to reopen on September 28.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation announced a “phased approach” to reopening the province’s casinos in July, but left the ultimate decision on when to reopen to the third-party service providers who manage day-to-day operations.
Few of these service providers saw then or see now much point in reopening given the restrictions, which include a maximum of 50 customers inside a venue at any given time, ensuring a minimum of two metres distancing between guests and no live dealer table games.
GCG said last Friday that its 11 venues will adhere to these guidelines, while also requiring slot jockeys to reserve a spot online before showing up at the casino.
GCG chief executive Rod Baker warned investors that “we expect no material financial benefit to the company from our 11 Ontario locations” under the current limitations.
Other large Canadian operators, including Gateway Casinos and Entertainment, have yet to announce plans to reopen their Ontario venues.
Gateway was said to be musing about subdividing Caesars Windsor’s gaming floors into as many as a dozen 50-person ‘pods’ that could isolate groups of gamblers from each other.