Canadian senator poised for $1.9 million casino cash-out

Great Canadian Gaming Corp. set to be sold in $3.4 billion deal should shareholders approve of Apollo Global Management Inc. on December 23

Larry Campbell | Photo: Senate of Canada

Liberal-appointed senator and former Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell is poised to cash out nearly $2 million worth of shares in Great Canadian Gaming Corp. (GCGC), of which he is a director.

Toronto-headquartered GCGC entered into an agreement November 10 with U.S. investment manager Apollo Global Management Inc.

Apollo intends to pay $39 per share in what’s anticipated to be a $3.4 billion deal. The board, including Campbell, has unanimously agreed to the deal, as have the executives.

At $39 per share, the deal is a 35% premium compared with the closing price on November 10. 

Campbell, 72, holds 50,252 shares, for a gross value of $1.96 million.

Campbell will have to wait until December 23 to see if a majority of shareholders accept the deal.

Some minority shareholders have expressed opposition, claiming the offer is low when compared with the future value of the company, according to reports on a November 10 shareholder meeting.

GCGC started soliciting offers in July 2018. The company says COVID-19 has led to an 87% decline in revenues.

Campbell has not spoken publicly about his role at GCGC since allegations of money laundering at GCGC flagship B.C. casino River Rock Casino and Resort led in part to the May 2019 government announcement of a public inquiry on the matter.

The Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in B.C. commission has since heard over the past two months from casino investigators on how GCGC staff failed to adequately report suspicious transactions to FINTRAC; how casino managers favoured VIP gamblers to the point where assaults on staff went unreported, according to a security review; and how GCGC executives voiced displeasure to police and regulators about enforcement of laws on casino floors.

The commission has also heard testimony of how B.C. casinos such as River Rock had routinely accepted bundled up, drug-covered cash making Campbell’s oversight of GCGC more distinct because of his past politics.

Campbell is a former RCMP officer and former chief coroner for the province. He was elected mayor on a progressive platform in 2002. As coroner and mayor, he particularly advocated for ending drug addiction. 

The Liberal Party of Canada appointed him as senator in 2005, but he became independent in 2014.

Privately, Campbell became involved in business in China and the casino.

He was a director of China-based manufacturer and retailer CY Oriental Holdings Ltd. from May 2006 to April 2009. In 2008, he joined GCGC.

After being elected mayor, Campbell voted in favour of gambling expansion and led a transition for centrist members of his party, the Coalition of Progressive Electors, to a new civic party called Vision Vancouver, which took donations from Great Canadian in 2005. Once Campbell joined the GCGC board in 2008, the company made further donations to Vision, as well as numerous other civic leaders who supported gambling (corporate donations were banned in 2017).

More testimony surrounding River Rock and other GCGC casinos could come in the New Year once the commission returns to the subject of casinos.