Lottery Under Fire

Report says retailers made millions in dishonest claims

TORONTO -- The Ontario government called police Monday after the province's ombudsman accused unscrupulous lottery-ticket retailers of collecting tens of millions of dollars in "dishonest" winningsand the responsible agency of letting them get away with it, according to a report in the Brooks Bulletin.

Public Infrastructure Minister David Caplan asked police to look into ombudsman Andre Marin's report probing a disproportionate number of jackpot wins by so-called lottery insidersa report that amounted to a searing indictment of the Ontario Lottery [image-nocss] and Gaming Corp. (OLG).

Marin showed no quarter to the corporation, which he said ignored allegations of widespread retailer fraud, "coddling" retailers and front-line ticket sellers while playing "games" with customers who complained they had been cheated.

"If he is alleging that there is a fraud, then it should all be turned over to the Ontario Provincial Police for their review and they'll take the appropriate steps," Caplan said after he came under heavy fire from the opposition benches in the Ontario legislature.

"I have directed OLG to turn over all of its files reviewed by the ombudsman, and any other relevant files, to (police) for review."

Marin's report stopped short of recommending the province ban retailers from buying lottery tickets but said the government-owned corporation has too cozy a relationship with the thousands of men and women who sell its productsand who happen to be among its best customers.

"It has lost sight of the fact that it is supposed to be the guardian of the trust of the public," Marin said during a news conference, according to the report. "Without the trust that whoever has Lady Luck on their side will actually pocket the jackpot, confidence in our lottery is shattered."

Between 1999 and 2006, retailers claimed about $100 million in prizes. Of that, Marin said it took investigators just 90 days to identify five cases where unscrupulous retailers fraudulently collected about $15 million.

Since the corporation doesn't track wins by retailers, the true total of fraudulent jackpots is probably much higher, he said.

"It's likely that over the course of the years it's tens of millions of dollars that have been paid to internal fraudsters, but we'll never quite know because OLG doesn't keep track of the number of retailers it has (or) of retailer wins," he said.

No retailers have been charged as a result of the report, and the Ontario Convenience Stores Association said the vast majority of small retailers are honest and have nothing to do with defrauding the lottery system.

"If there was a few bad apples, then let's move on because I think we have a wonderful relationship with over 1 million people a day shopping in our stores," said association spokesman Dave Bryans.

"We take a lot of our pride with our relationship with every consumer in the province, and we look forward to continually serving them every day," Bryans told CP24 City News. "And if in fact there are bad apples, we will work with them to ensure that they're out of the system."