Halton Hills and North Halton newspapers
OPINION... Two-armed bandits
Independent & Free Press (Georgetown, ON), 30 Mar 2007, p. 6

Full Text

Every day in Ontario millions of lottery tickets are purchased by customers with the clear understanding they are taking part in a game of chance and that the odds are stacked against them. However, those players also hand over their money with the belief the lotteries are being run fairly. While that belief had been shaken earlier this year by a CBC the fifth estate exposé that indicated an unusually high number of retailers-- and this does not mean ALL retailers-- had won large prizes, it was altogether shattered this week by Ombudsman André Marin's damning report on the Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) Corporation. Marin bluntly stated that the OLG developed a "corporate culture of profit" and basically abandoned its three core values-- integrity, responsibility and accountability. Not only that, but the OLG, according to Marin, became too close with its retailers and turned a blind eye to questionable winnings by the very people who sell tickets. From 1999 to July 2006 about $100 million in prizes worth more than $50,000 have been won by retail owners and employees. One such case was in Burlington in which $12.5 million was paid out to a woman who signed a declaration stating she did not have a brother and was not connected to any retailer. The OLG then discovered that she had the same last name as the retailer who had generated the free play ticket, and he confirmed she was his sister. Confronted with this, she said was trying to protect family privacy. "Incredibly, despite all this, the corporation paid her the $12.5 million..." stated Marin's report. Even when these wins seemed suspicious to OLG officials nothing was done. In fact, ousted CEO Duncan Brown told an OLG official who complained, "Sometimes you hold your nose..." Marin said the OLG was also "rude and inept" when dealing with complaints from customers who felt cheated. In the case of an 83-year-old cancer survivor, who was cheated out of a $250,000 winning ticket by a convenience store clerk, the corporation spent millions fighting him in court instead of helping him get his rightful prize. While the Province has taken steps to restore trust in the lottery system and vows to implement all of Marin's recommendations-- such as tougher rules, more enforcement, monitoring of retailers and an independent oversight of the corporation-- there is no escaping the fact Ontario taxpayers have been the victim of the perfect crime.

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30 Mar 2007
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OPINION... Two-armed bandits