Fears of the mafia spreading its tentacles in Quebec’s casinos are not new. The police sounded the alarm as early as the 1970s, in light of notorious precedents that had been observed for decades, from Cuba to Las Vegas.
– Also to be read: Troubled relationship between the mafia and the casinos
– Also to be read: Loan sharks try to take advantage of casino players
– Also to be read: Red Carpet for Organized Crime at the Casino
CONTROL THE GAME
“There’s no chance in the gambling. Only winners and losers. Winners control the game,” once said the famous Meyer Lansky, long considered the “mafia accountant” in the United States and the man who helped make Las Vegas the gambling Mecca as early as the 1940s.
In the late 1930s, he had also reached an agreement with the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista for the American mafia to take control of Havana’s casinos before being ousted by Fidel Castro in 1959.
Vincenzo “Vic” Cotroni ran the Montreal mafia from 1958 to 1975.
In 1970, the former godfather of the Montreal mafia, Vincenzo “Vic” Cotroni, had met Lansky in Mexico. Informed by the police, then Justice Minister Jérôme Choquette wondered if the mafia had plans for casinos in Quebec.
The mafia is notorious for controlling or infiltrating the gaming industry elsewhere in the United States, including Atlantic City, New Jersey.
RESERVES IN QUEBEC
In a parliamentary committee on June 3, 1993, the director general of the Sûreté du Québec, Robert Lavigne, said he was in favour of Bill 84, which gave the government responsibility for operating casinos and video lottery terminals. But not before reminding the police of their “strong reservations” about the bill for more than 15 years.
“It should be remembered that organized crime had taken over most of the gambling establishments in the United States and that the mafia had almost absolute power over everything that had anything to do with this market,” he said.
These reserves were also fuelled by intriguing developments here at home.
On September 28, 1982, Michel Pozza, whom the authorities referred to as the “silversmith of the Cotroni clan”, was shot dead in the Laurentians, supposedly because he was in league with the Rizzuto clan. When police searched his vehicle and his residence, they were surprised to find a secret document from the government that was considering opening casinos in Quebec.
“It’s obvious that the arrival of a casino […] may result in increased money laundering activities [et] of loan-sharking by organized gangs,” Quebec Public Security Minister Claude Ryan predicted in the National Assembly when the casino project in Montreal was finalized on May 11, 1993.
In Le Journal de Montréal On June 29, 1995, journalist Michel Auger reported the arrests of nine individuals linked to the Asian mafia in connection with a case of extortion and loan-sharking at the expense of a businessman who had lost $700,000 at the casino on Île Notre-Dame.
In 2003, Montreal police investigator Nicodemo Milano conducted an undercover operation at the casino playing the role of a big gambler, according to court documents. He was introduced to a loan shark named Giuseppe Triassi, who said he worked for Montreal mafia boss Vito Rizzuto.
At the inauguration of the Casino de Montréal on October 9, 1993, we see Mayor Jean Doré (left), Minister André Valleran (centre), and artists Dominique Michel and Roch Voisine (right).
“We’re the only ones who know how to run a casino” once boasted former Montreal mafia boss Vincenzo Cotroni.
Joe Di Maulo was long considered the number two in the Italian mafia.
“The best way to keep the new casinos [de l’État] It would be clean to let the mafia take care of it,” former Montreal mafia number 2 Joe Di Maulo told the Toronto Star in July 1993.
That year, 10 months before the opening of the Casino de Montréal, the police had opened an investigation into his brother, Vincenzo “Jimmy” Di Maulo, after he requested an appointment with the president of Loto-Québec to present him with an offer of service described as “irresistible”.
Unfortunately for him, one of the police officers who had already arrested him for murder was then working for Loto-Québec and alerted the authorities.
STRUCK IN ONTARIO
In July 2019, York Regional Police dismantled a network linked to the Calabrian mafia that allegedly laundered over $70 million in dirty money in Ontario casinos.
In addition to the 10 arrests in the Sindicato investigation, police seized property valued at $35 million, including 27 residences, five Ferrari cars and over $1 million in cash.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, a crown corporation like Loto-Québec, which had cooperated with the police investigation, took the opportunity to say that it “takes money laundering seriously”.