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Gambling debt linked to murder-suicide

A Richmond man murdered a woman inside a room at this hotel last January before taking his own life not long after losing $200,000 at the River Rock Casino Resort. - Google Maps
A Richmond man murdered a woman inside a room at this hotel last January before taking his own life not long after losing $200,000 at the River Rock Casino Resort.
— image credit: Google Maps

The Richmond man behind a high-profile murder-suicide in a local hotel room last January was saddled with a massive gambling debt incurred at River Rock Casino Resort, The Richmond Review has learned.

A source told Black Press that the man had withdrawn some $200,000 from his line of credit, and lost it all at the local casino before reserving a room at the Hampton Inn on Jan. 7. An independent source familiar with the police investigation confirmed the details.

The 55-year-old man took a sharp instrument and killed the 50-year-old Richmond woman with whom he shared the hotel room before turning the weapon on himself.

Howard Blank, spokesperson for Great Canadian Gaming Corporation which operates River Rock, declined to comment, citing the fact that the murder-suicide did not occur on the casino’s property. A request for a comment from the B.C. Lottery Corporation was unreturned by press time Friday.

Burnaby-Deer Lake MLA Kathy Corrigan, NDP critic for Public Safety and Solicitor General, said as casinos have proliferated all over the province, the level of services for problem gamblers who are digging themselves a deep financial hole haven’t kept up.

“What we have is a significant number of really desperate people and possibly some people who go so far as to kill themselves. And it’s devastating for individuals and for families and for communities. And so it’s a huge problem and one that there doesn’t seem to be a plan in how to address it.”

Regional coroner Owen Court declined to identify the victims and said that he promised both families that he wouldn’t. Police also said they won’t be releasing their names.

But the man and woman were not married and were of Chinese ethnicity.

Anti-gambling activist Bill Chu said when casino proponents first tried to persuade city council to support a bid for an expanded casino, they cited an unsatisfied demand among the Asian community for gambling.

“This is a real wake-up call for the Chinese community. They should never allow themselves to be the target,” Chu said.

Chu noted that since River Rock’s arrival in Richmond, there have been a number of high profile criminal cases directly linked to the casino, from loansharking to murders —loanshark Rong Lilly Li was last seen alive walking out of the casino in 2006—to armed robbers who last year followed casino patrons home.

When a gambler commits suicide, it’s not just one person who suffers, he said.

As in the case in January, Chu noted there was a female victim, but there’s also the toll heavy gambling debts have on relatives who lose a loved one, friends who may have loaned them money, and society in the form of gamblers who become less productive at work and in the community.

Clarence Chan, gambling counsellor with Richmond Addiction Services, said his agency doesn’t keep the types of statistics which might show whether the number of clients with gambling problems has grown since River Rock opened in the summer of 2004.

The agency deals with 40 to 60 clients with gambling troubles annually, including some who have lost more than $1 million, Chan said. Some are referred to the agency by bankruptcy trustees.

On the Jan. 8 weekend the Richmond pair died, hotel staff initially became concerned when they didn’t check out at the scheduled time. A hotel supervisor went to the room and knocked not long after checkout time, but there was no answer and no conversation or noise could be heard emanating from the room.

An attempt to enter the room was unsuccessful as the interior privacy lock had been engaged, a source told The Review.

But staff figured the pair might still be sleeping, and so left before returning a few hours later.

When there was still no response, and staff couldn’t gain access to the room, police were called and they made the tragic discovery.

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