Using Surveillance the Wrong Way at a Winnipeg Casino

WINNIPEG (CP) -- Officials with the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation are defending their decision not to go to police after firing three casino employees who allegedly used a surveillance camera to watch a female performer changing backstage.

Susan Olynik, a lottery corporation spokesperson, said a corporation employee disclosed the existence of the change-room video from the Club Regent Casino in Winnipeg in early 2003.

But Olynik said the corporation decided not to go to police because its own investigators could not locate the videotape.

Instead, the three surveillance technicians were dismissed.

``We took it very, very seriously,'' she said. ``Our surveillance equipment is to be used for the protection of our guests (and) the protection of our customers.''

Olynik said there were other issues involved in the decision to fire the employees, but she wouldn't say what those were. She also said new procedures had been introduced at the casino following the incident.

She said both the lottery corporation's CEO and chairman were informed, and that they agreed with the decision not to inform police.

The Winnipeg Free Press reported on Saturday that an anonymous letter delivered to the newspaper claims the camera overlooked a screened-off temporary change area that was open at the top. The security camera was supposed to be turned off during costume changes, the letter states, but weren't.

The letter continues that the employees recorded a female performer changing, and that copies of the tape still exist.

Scott Smith, the minister responsible for the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation, ordered a full report of the case after learning about the story on Friday.

``I'm certainly asking for a lot more detail and what action was taken, or not taken, and why,'' Smith said.

The lottery corporation's security chief, Gerry Boose, said his team of experienced retired police officers did a thorough investigation but weren't able to identify the victim or victims.

Boose said there was an employee who made a statement that a tape had been produced and later destroyed, but he said that meant there wasn't anything to look for.

``I can assure you within our own premises we made a very rigorous search of all tapes and found no evidence this tape existed,'' Boose said.

David Deutscher, a law professor at the University of Manitoba, said police might have been able to obtain warrants to search the home of the employee who admitted the tape existed _ if they had been called.

Manitoba's deputy attorney general said there was no legal onus for the lottery corporation to call police, but said it would be the normal course of events in such a situation.

``If you think something is not right, you report it to police,'' Rob Finlayson said.