Gateway Casino Reopening; Money Laundering Case Investigated in Toronto

After over two weeks of property closures, Gateway Casino began welcoming guests back to some of its properties over the last few days. On Wednesday, Ontario’s Cascades Casino Chatham reopened along with Playtime Casino Hanover, Gateway Casinos Sarnia, and Starlight Casino Point Edward.

The company was rocked by a ransomware attack that forced the company to shut down its 14 casinos and left management scrambling to solve the issue.

Gateway brought in outside technology experts in attempts to help get casinos back open, employees back to work, and gamblers heading back to their favorite slots and table games. So far, nine of the company’s casinos are once again back open.

“We appreciate the patience of our customers, employees and government partners while we work to restore our operations,” Gateway noted in a news release. “While this has been an unfortunate incident we will continue to work with our third party experts to determine the impacts to personal information, if any, and will keep you updated as we resolve this cyber incident.”

Back in Business

Gateway operates 26 properties in British Columbia and Ontario with an additional two casinos in Edmonton, Alberta. The company is based out of Burnaby, British Columbia, with annual revenues of more than $200 million. Gateway is the country’s second-largest casino operator behind Great Canadian Entertainment.

Company officials have worked to assure the public that there isn’t any evidence that any customers, employees, or vendor information was compromised during the attacks. The closures are expected to cost the company millions of dollars as Gateway becomes just the latest victim of cyber attacks.

Some of the Gateways’s gaming revenue also goes to local communities and those funds will be missed as well. Company officials continue working to determine the extent of the attacks and to limit their overall impact on operations.

“We will continue to work with our third-party experts to determine the impacts on personal information, if any, and will keep you updated as we resolve this cyber incident,” Gateway noted.

“While we have no evidence thus far that the personal information of our customers or employees has been impacted, we have experienced a ransomware attack on our IT systems. Unfortunately, cybercriminals often attempt to compromise personal information. We are continuing to work with third-party experts on a 24/7 basis to determine if there has been any impact on personal information in this case.”

An Industry Concern

Numerous industries have felt the effects of these types of cyber attacks. Ransomware attacks usually involve hackers locking up a computer system and then demanding payment to release the system.

In 2021 businesses spent more than $600 million to recover from cyber attacks, according to Statistics Canada – an increase of about $200 million from 2019. Technology analyst Carmi Levy told CTV that these kinds of incidents that Gateway experienced may take firms years to recover from.

“You don’t just flip a switch and come back on,” he said.

Recovering from ransomware attacks requires a “multi-faceted, multi-staged process,” Levi said, and requires highly-trained security experts.

“We call these ‘business killer events’ for a reason,” he said. “Many companies that are targeted successfully by ransomware never fully recover. The direct costs will be into the millions if not the tens of millions or beyond.

Levy believes the incident shows that companies must continually train and take prevention seriously when it comes to their computer servers and systems. He believes companies should make significant investments in these types of security measures.

“Organizations aren’t training their people well enough to recognize the signs of a phishing type of message that shows up in their inbox,” he said. “That’s how all of these attacks are initiated. Clearly, someone clicked on the wrong thing in this event. Clearly, someone is going to click on the wrong thing in future events. It’s time Canadian businesses got wise to this and started redirecting their cyber security investments toward their people.”

Authorities Investigate Possible Money Laundering

In other Canadian gaming news, Ontario Provincial Police are investigating Branavan Kanapathipilla for possibly laundering money through Canadian casinos. According to the OPP, Kanapathipilla has previous convictions for fraud and other crimes.

Officials seized $100,000 in cash Kanapathipilla deposited last November at the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls after it was reported by staff as suspicious. Police believe the man was involved in a loan sharking enterprise, but he hasn’t officially been charged with a crime.

Now Kanapathipilla can’t be found and is believed to have left the country after skipping a hearing last week. Ontario gaming officials are conducting a review of how Kanapathipilla was able to make deposits and withdrawals of $4 million in cash at Toronto casinos for several years without raising more red flags and triggering a larger investigation.

Sean Chaffin is a longtime freelance writer, editor, and former high school journalism teacher. A journalism graduate of Texas A&M University, his work has appeared in numerous publications and websites. Sean has covered the gaming and poker industry for many years and also writes about about numerous other topics.