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Opinion: The great Canadian gaming of vaccines should be character evidence in the Cullen Commission

When Great Canadian Gaming CEO Rod Baker allegedly jumped the queue for a COVID-19 vaccine, it should have raised questions about the corporate culture at the company
Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker

Former B.C. Lottery Corporation Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer, Robert Kroeker, may have drawn the worst week to testify in the Cullen Commission — the public inquiry into money laundering in British Columbia.

Kroeker was emotional as he accused B.C. Attorney-General David Eby of politicizing money laundering in the province.

At the same time, Great Canadian Gaming Corporation President and CEO Rod Baker resigned from his job after making international headlines. Baker and his wife allegedly took a private jet to Beaver Creek, Yukon, posed as local motel workers, and jumped the queue ahead of Indigenous recipients for the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

The two stories intersect: Rod Baker was Robert Kroeker’s boss from 2012 to 2015 when Kroeker was the Vice President of Great Canadian Gaming.

In fact, in 2015, Kroeker denied that money laundering occurred at Great Canadian Gaming facilities, including River Rock Casino in Richmond, B.C.

In that same year, Kroeker left Great Canadian Gaming to join BCLC as its Chief Compliance Officer and Vice President of Legal, Compliance, and Security.

In testimony to the Cullen Commission, Kroeker admits that on his first day at BCLC, he received a high-level briefing about suspicious cash transactions in B.C. casinos with possible links to organized crime.

Kroeker was fired from BCLC in 2019.

When Rod Baker and his wife were ticketed and charged under Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act on January 21, he may have inadvertently submitted character evidence. 

Baker’s controversy should undermine the credibility of the testimony of any Great Canadian Gaming management under his watch (except for whistleblowers). 

If the allegations are true, Baker’s behaviour — as the highest-ranking corporate executive at Great Canadian Gaming — neither speaks kindly to the values of the company or its executive management, including Kroeker, with whom Baker surrounded himself.

After all, Baker and his wife’s alleged crimes do not espouse honesty, transparency, or social responsibility. The crimes reflect deceit, deliberate unlawfulness, and selfishness.

The reflection of Baker’s character into the corporate culture of Great Canadian Gaming becomes further complicated by Kroeker’s own testimony. Both Kroeker and former River Rock general manager Rick Duff testified last week that Great Canadian Gaming managers didn't want BCLC staff questioning VIP high-rollers from China for fear of revenue loss.

Also according to BCLC CEO Jim Lightbody, Baker specifically complained that BCLC’s investigative team scared away River Rock Casino’s VIPs. Lightbody claims that Baker even asked him to stop conducting investigations.

As the Cullen Commission continues its work, Great Canadian Gaming’s corporate culture should factor into the public inquiry’s ultimate findings about money laundering in B.C. casinos.

It is, of course, a corporate culture that can engender negligence, opacity, and corruption. Moreover, no one has more influence over corporate culture, nor is anyone more accountable for it, than a company’s CEO.

In this case, Great Canadian Gaming’s decade-long CEO, Rod Baker, may have just provided damning insight into the organizational behaviour of his company, which just so happens to be at the centre of money laundering in B.C. casinos. 

Mo Amir is the host of This is VANCOLOUR, a politics and culture podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and 

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