02 December 2020 Posted By : Kelly Greig

Finance minister orders external audit of Quebec casinos after investigation into Mafia perks

MONTREAL -- Quebec's finance minister has ordered an external and independent audit of the province's casinos.

The move comes after Quebec French-language news channel TVA's investigative unit found Mafia leaders had received access to luxury perks through the Montreal Casino, including tickets to shows, meals and free hotel rooms. 

Finance Minister Eric Girard said he wants a deeper look into how the casinos operate, especially when it comes to loyalty programs. Casinos in the province are run by Loto-Quebec, a provincial Crown corporation.

The independent audit will investigate potential money laundering and criminal activity and will look into the loyalty program to ensure it’s not rewarding those who get receive cash from illegal activity. 

The investigation by TVA made a number of claims that Mafia members were receiving luxury perks. It found one alleged Mafioso was listed among the top 10 players at the Montreal Casino in 2019. Stefano Sollecito was at the centre of a police investigation in 2014 and 2015 and during that time, he is said to have gambled away $2.5 million.

Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade told The Canadian Press she wants to see an independent public inquiry, and said it would not have to stretch over a few years, like that of the Charbonneau Commission. Instead, she said, several commissions with a well-targeted mandate and on “very specific subjects” would take six months, she said.

Quebec Solidaire said it wants the government to take this investigation one step further and suspend the heads of Loto-Quebec while the audit is being carried out.

It is also calling for a public inquiry, saying it “would have enabled us to compel all the people concerned to testify, whereas external investigators will not have that power. Loto-Québec is a [government] corporation, it is accountable to the public and it has a duty of transparency,” said QS spokesperson and Rosemont MNA Vincent Marissal.

The Parti Quebecois said wants the auditor general to be involved so MNAs would have the opportunity to ask questions regarding the investigation. It also wants this audit to include gaming establishments on Indigenous reserves.

Loto-Quebec responded to the audit Monday afternoon saying it will fully collaborate, adding that it has always been committed to finding the best ways to counter methods used by organized crime.

"In the interest of continuous improvement, Loto-Québec keeps abreast of best practices to counter the methods used in organized crime, which are constantly evolving. The Corporation will ensure the cooperation of all staff and will apply any recommendations resulting from the audit," said Lynne Roiter, president and CEO of Loto-Quebec.

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