The Canadian Underground Gambling Scene

Although casinos are lawful throughout Canada, there has been a significant increase in underground gambling. In December of 2017, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police shut down an illegal club posing as a Karaoke venue in Richmond, British Columbia. With legal gambling in Canada being such a thriving industry, why do illicit activities persist?

Why Illegal Gambling is So Common

Although Canadians are not required to pay taxes on lottery or casino winnings within the country, this is typically the case when they participate at an online casino based outside of Canada. To avoid being traced down and having this law enforced, a large number of players choose to gamble at underground establishments in order to avoid detection. The fact that underground casinos do not impose minimum bets is also appealing to many participants, as is the fact that other items can be used to wager when cash is scarce.


Automobiles, drugs, and other goods are common wagering items in illicit gambling operations. Without having to pay taxes, illegal bookmakers are able to offer better odds to gamblers and take phone wagers, whereas legal bookies do not. It is common for wagers to be accepted at the same location as casino games, which is not the case in legal establishments and makes things much more convenient. For some participants, the added thrill of placing bets in a world that is quite shady and dangerous is enticing, though we would argue that it is hardly worth the risk. It is also true that without regulation from recognized authorities, gamblers have no recourse if something goes awry.


In contrast to licensed and regulated sites, lawless casinos could simply refuse to pay out winnings, and there would be nothing you could do about it. Not only would you have no legal recourse, but demanding the money you were owed could rapidly escalate into a hazardous situation. Match fixing, rigging other games, and dishonest dealers are also significant possibilities in underground casinos, and again, players would be unable to take action if they encountered any of these. The illicit elements that these circumstances invite are as numerous as you might expect, and the situation as a whole is cause for concern. As a result, police are attempting to crack down on illegal activities, as a recent incident in Richmond plainly demonstrates.


What Took Place in Richmond

Richmond can almost be viewed as a microcosm of the illicit gambling rackets that exist across Canada. On December 3, 2017, police discovered an unlawful gambling operation in the 11700 block of Voyageur Way in the industrial district. This was not a modest operation, as the two-story, 2,000-square-foot space was used for both open alcohol service and underground gambling. Approximately 20 patrons between the ages of 19 and 25 were discovered when authorities entered the establishment. Police closed the establishment, citing public safety concerns and noting that this was the second “speak-easy” they had discovered and sealed down within a month.


This time, however, the alcohol on the premises was described as being significantly more refined than what had been discovered and seized a month prior. Police cite gambling, potential fire hazards and congestion, attracting criminals to the location, serving liquor without a license, and road safety concerns associated with impaired drivers as the causes of their concerns regarding public safety. Corporal Dennis Hwang stated in a press release that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are collaborating closely with their City of Richmond partners to address the issue, specifically with their Bylaws Unit.


Other problems have arisen in Richmond, heightening concerns about illicit gambling and other underground activities. The government seized a large mansion in the summer of 2017 after it was discovered that gambling and other unlawful activities were taking place there. The close association between the mansion and extremely violent gang activity is further evidence of how readily this can be triggered by underground gambling. The problem persists throughout Canada, and efforts to combat it remain a top priority.

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