Some RCMP officers may have been surprised to hear the province's gaming minister say there was dissatisfaction with the outcomes of the province's anti-illegal gaming team. After all, that's not the reason they were given for its disbandment. Last month, Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman told Public Eye the government-funded RCMP team wasn't shutdown because of funding pressures. Instead, he said the team was shutdown because it hadn't prepared a business plan and the government wasn't "getting the results we wanted."
But, in March, the RCMP's criminal operations branch cited urgent "funding pressures, criminal enterprise activity and/or other operational and investigative priorities" as the reasons for that shutdown, which took place on April 1.
This, according to a message sent to officers in British Columbia and obtained via a freedom of information request.
That's consistent with what a RCMP spokesperson earlier told Public Eye.
And it seems to support former unit commander Fred Pinnock's statement that illegal gaming was pushed to the backseat because of a need to focus on other enforcement priorities
In an exclusive interview, Pinnock said those priorities included criminal activities that would "keep (the RCMP) positioned to ensure the renewal" of their provincial policing contract in 2012, such as gang violence.
The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned message.
To: All Members "E" Division
From: Criminal Operations Branch
"E" DIVISION BROADCAST
Dissolution of Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team (IIGET)
Established in 2004 under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB), Police Services Division (PSD) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), IIGET was created due to a growing concern about the enforcement response to illegal gaming in British Columbia and acted within the regulatory framework of the Gaming Control Act.
IIGET was dedicated primarily to preserving the integrity of legal gaming in this Province and targeted illegal gaming activity such as; illegal lotteries, common gaming houses, the distribution of illegal video lottery terminals, animal fights, bookmaking, and internet gaming.
Other activities of the IIGET included; the education of partner agencies, the gathering and recording of intelligence and reporting on the scope and extent of illegal gaming provincially.
On 2009-02-18, given exigent funding pressures, criminal enterprise activity and/or other operational and investigative priorities, a decision was made not to seek a renewal of the current MOU for the IIGET.
Please be advised that effective April 1, 2009, the IIGET is to be collapsed and will cease to exist as a unit. As IIGET will no longer be in a position to take on illegal gaming investigations, the relevant "police force of jurisdiction" will now be responsible for illegal gaming investigations.
For matters relating to legal gaming venues within the Province, members may contact the British Columbia Ministry of Housing and Social Development, Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch (GPEB), Investigative Division, which will remain active and provide assistance in matters relating to their mandate.