Canadian Gambling Kingpin Quits GCGC After Jumping COVID-19 Vaccine Queue

  • Rodney Baker resigned as GCGC president, CEO, and directors board member on Sunday
  • Days earlier, he and his wife chartered a plane to receive COVID-19 vaccines in Beaver Creek
  • Canadian officials charged Baker and his wife Ekatarina with breaking coronavirus protocols
  • The Vancouver couple claimed they were hotel workers to get vaccinated at a mobile clinic
  • White River First Nation’s chief has called the penalty for the couple’s selfish act too lenient

 

Signpost for the Yukon territory in Canada with lakes and mountains in the background
Canadian gaming tycoon Rodney Baker resigned his GCGC posts on Sunday following charges he contravened Yukon protocols to get a COVID-19 vaccine in the Yukon. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Pair flew to remote Yukon community

The former president and CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCGC) has resigned days after charges emerged that he broke isolation protocols and lied to get a COVID-19 vaccination in the Yukon territory.

receiving Moderna vaccines intended for at-risk indigenous residents

The Canadian Press reported that Rodney Baker, 55, and his actress wife Ekatarina, 32, contravened Yukon’s coronavirus rules after chartering a plane to the remote community of Beaver Creek and receiving Moderna vaccines intended for at-risk indigenous residents.

GCGC, which operates casinos and racetracks across the Great White North, announced on Monday that Baker had submitted his resignation on Sunday. It added that the former CEO also renounced his membership in the company’s board of directors. According to press reports, GCGC is in a takeover process which will see the gaming company delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange after the deal closes in Q2 of 2021, subject to regulatory and closing conditions.

GCGC also made headlines in 2020 following an inquiry into allegations of money-laundering and corruption in British Columbia casinos.

It is not clear whether Baker’s resignation is related to his COVID-19 protocol breaches or greater company matters.

Mobile clinic staff exposed elaborate ruse

Court records show that the Vancouver couple received tickets at Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport on January 21. Authorities charged the couple with “failing to self-isolate for 14 days and […] failing to act in a manner consistent with their declarations upon arriving in Yukon.”

Both individuals face fines of CA$1,000 (US$784) plus fees. The tickets issued under Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act, however, indicate that the couple has up to 30 days to challenge the allegations, which are as yet unproven in court.

couple claimed they were workers at a local hotel

According to Yukon Community Services Minister John Streicker, the Bakers arrived in Whitehorse on January 19. Instead of self-isolating for a fortnight as required, the pair chartered a flight to Beaver Creek on January 21. In order to receive their shot at the mobile vaccination clinic, according to Streicker, the couple claimed they were workers at a local hotel.

Home to a community of 100 people, Beaver Creek is approximately 450 miles from Whitehorse near the Alaska border. Elderly members of the White River First Nation were among those slated to receive the Moderna vaccine, which was being administered by a mobile team.

Mobile clinic staff got wise to the ruse after the Bakers asked for a ride to the airport. After the hotel confirmed the couple were not employees, clinic staff alerted enforcement officers. Officials eventually tracked the couple down at the Whitehorse airport, where they were waiting to fly back to Vancouver.

Yukon officials condemn couple’s actions

Minister Streicker has said he’s “pretty angry at the whole thing”, adding that the couple put a lot of lives at risk. White River First Nation issued a statement calling for a stronger penalty against the pair. White River chief Angela Demit called the penalty too “lenient” in light of the incident’s “potentially lethal effects to our community.” She added:

We are deeply concerned by the actions of individuals who put our Elders and vulnerable people at risk to jump the line for selfish purposes.”

According to Demit, White River First Nation was fast-tracked for vaccines due to its remoteness, its elderly and vulnerable population, and its access to health care.