Ontario retailers who sell lottery tickets will soon be banned from playing tickets purchased in their own stores, The Canadian Press has learned.
It’s a move aimed at preventing questionable insider wins and improving the image of Ontario’s troubled lottery corporation in the eyes of consumers.
A government source said the restriction will be officially announced Monday and will take effect in November.
However retailers would still be able to play the lottery if they buy tickets in other stores and redeem their tickets at another retail location, the source said.
“The rules are being changed to ensure that when Ontarians play the lottery they know that while the odds may be long, the games are fair,” the source said.
“Ontarians deserve nothing less.”
The move was applauded by some Torontonians who were out walking in the city’s downtown on Sunday.
“I think it makes absolute sense. It does cut back on the fraud,” said Sherina Karsam who works as a consultant in Toronto.
“It allows for a level of comfort on the part of consumers that they’re (the retailers) being treated like everyone else and that there’s no favouritism in place. Or it’s not so much the favouritism – it’s the ability to bypass the system and it’s eliminating that,” said Karsam.
“I think I agree (with the change). The same thing is I’m working in a store and I have to ask my coworker to punch in what I buy. I cannot do it myself,” said Liberty Ferrer, who works in retail in Toronto and buys lottery tickets.
“I think that’s fair. I think that’s a good idea,” said Ferrer.
The lottery corporation in British Columbia has a similar policy.
The government source added the government is implementing all of the recommendations from a scathing 2007 report from Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin.
Marin had accused unscrupulous retailers of collecting tens of millions of dollars in “dishonest” winnings – and he said the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. turned a blind eye to the problem.
A sweeping forensic audit of the lottery corporation in February showed lottery insiders in the province had won $198 million in prizes over the past 13 years.
Marin had given the agency until early this month to report back to him and show that “rampant fraud” had been purged from the system, otherwise he had vowed to press the government to ban all retailers and lottery insiders from playing.
“These new rules are an important step in the road toward earning back the public’s confidence and trust in the OLG,” the source said.
The lottery corporation has been under fire for two years, not just over insider wins, but a series of problems that included botched scratch-and-win tickets, faulty slot machines and its decision to buy foreign cars instead of domestic vehicles as casino prizes as thousands of Ontario autoworkers were being laid off.
The police branch of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has investigated all insider wins since Jan. 1, 2008, and police have since laid several charges.
Kelly McDougald, who had been hired in 2007 as chief executive officer to fix the lottery corporation after the insider wins scandal, was fired late last month. McDougald served notice Friday that she was launching a lawsuit, estimated to be worth as much as $9 million, against the provincial government over her dismissal.
When it fired McDougald, the Liberal government released thousands of pages of “unacceptable” expenses filed by lottery corporation executives.
The entire OLG board resigned the same day, while the government called in the auditor general to determine if any rules were broken when executives billed taxpayers for expensive dinners, memberships to Weight Watchers, gyms and golf clubs.