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Politics

Please Advise! What Might the Casino Queue Jumper Teach Us?

The parable of the gaming CEO and the actress who bet they could beat vaccine rules has lessons for us all, says Dr. Steve.

Steve Burgess 26 Jan 2021 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

Dear Dr. Steve,

Great Canadian Gaming CEO and president Rod Baker — or he was until he resigned Sunday — and his wife Ekaterina Baker have been charged with queue jumping after they flew to Whitehorse and then travelled to Beaver Creek, Yukon, where they misrepresented themselves in order to get early shots of the Moderna vaccine.

What lessons can we draw from this incident?

Signed,

Betty

Dear Bets,

What a black eye for the casino business. Somewhere Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel must be shaking their heads in sorrow over what has become of their beloved industry. Once the setting for glamorous Rat Pack bacchanals and tuxedoed swells popping champagne at the faro tables, casinos are now more famous in British Columbia for money laundering. And now this. At this rate the casino racket is going to acquire a bad reputation.

The Bakers are not helping. Residents of Vancouver, they decided to head north for a bit of, shall we say, poker. Once they hit Beaver Creek, the couple claimed they were employees of a local motel. That would probably be the 1202 Motor Inn/Fas Gas — it’s the place Sinatra would most likely have played had he ever passed through.

Ekaterina Baker is an actor who coincidentally just completed a role in a movie about Meyer Lansky himself, starring Harvey Keitel. Perhaps a role like that is more in her wheelhouse — obviously she wasn’t very convincing in the role of chambermaid. It’s disappointing really — Baker could have really stretched her thespian skills and passed herself off as Buckshot Betty of Beaver Creek hotspot Buckshot Betty’s Restaurant & Rooms. Admittedly that would have been ambitious — an Ocean’s Eleven-type sting. Maybe when they make the film version.

The Bakers did get their vaccine jabs before locals got suspicious, and the one-armed bandits were subsequently detained. Charged with failing to quarantine, they were fined $575. That’s $575 each, mind you. We’re talking four figures.

Widespread cheating to cut into the vaccine queue is a disturbing possibility. Few of us have the resources to do like the Bakers and fly to Whitehorse. But Dr. Steve can envision other possibilities for queue jumpers. Getting a fake ID to make yourself appear older on Saturday night is a venerable Canadian tradition. Now instead of fake ID that says you're 19, you just get one that says you’re 83. Remember when people fibbed about being younger? Good times.

British Columbians do not want COVID-19 vaccinations to become a casino-like game of chance. But reports from other jurisdictions suggest that the dice have indeed been loaded.

For all the recent griping about Canada’s slow vaccination rate, we are definitely ranked among those wealthy nations that have been vaccine-hogging so far. As of mid-December, 14 per cent of the world’s population was in line for 53 per cent of the existing vaccine supply. The chief of WHO says we are looking at a potential “catastrophic moral failure.” Of course, if the people of Sri Lanka don’t take the initiative to charter flights to Canada so they can pose as motel employees, they have no one to blame but themselves.

In the U.S., where pay-as-you-go is standard practice, doctors are reportedly being swamped with calls from the well-heeled who wish to have their sleeves peeled. Meanwhile, a Bloomberg article published in November argued among other things that NBA players should be a priority (apparently for PR reasons) and that vaccinating certain communities at the expense of others would create fascinating conditions for useful scientific studies. How about, say, Poughkeepsie as a giant open-air laboratory experiment?

Unfortunately, elements of chance are now in play whether we like it or not. A new report says that the Moderna vaccine is equally effective against all variants of the coronavirus — except the South African variant, which is more likely to resist the vaccine. Spin the wheel 'o infection friends, and hope you don’t come up 00.

Meanwhile in other casino-related news, the Cullen Commission into casino money laundering in B.C. continues hearing testimony this week. Former River Rock Casino compliance manager Robert Kroeker and former general manager Rick Duff testified Monday that the casino attempted to shield its big-spending clients from pushy investigators asking questions about where the money was coming from. Duff told the commission that, after all, if big-money gamblers were harassed at the River Rock, they’d just jet on over to New West. Testimony indicated Duff was also seen dining with a woman who had just been observed receiving $50,000 from a notorious loan shark. (River Rock is owned by Great Canadian, Baker’s former employer.)

Any other week, Kroeker and Duff would probably be running past news reporters with jackets over their heads. As it is, thanks to Rod and Ekaterina Baker they are both still legitimate candidates for Casino Employees of the Month. Maybe Duff should comp the Bakers their second vaccine shot, just as a courtesy.

As for the rest of us, let this be a reminder: What happens in Beaver Creek, stays in Beaver Creek. Why not at Buckshot Betty’s? Try the breakfast burrito!  [Tyee]

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