VICTORIA The B.C. Lottery Corporation has upgraded its thousands of ticket outlets to prevent retailers from concealing winning tickets from customers, but gaps remain in its ability to check on prizes won by retailers, according to an independent audit ordered by Solicitor General John Les.
Les released a report Thursday from the audit firm Deloitte & Touche, the third investigation this year into lottery ticket sales. An investigation by B.C. Ombudsman Kim Carter revealed in May that retailers were six times more likely to win prizes than the general public. They were also able to turn their video terminals so they faced away from customers, and turn down the sound so the jingle “You’re In The Money” wouldn’t be heard when a winning ticket was scanned.
Those machines have been fixed, and as of this month every retail outlet is supposed to have a customer-operated ticket checking machine so people don’t have to hand tickets over to a retailer.
The latest audit combed through records of wins and found 21 additional wins by retailers of more than $10,000 that were not discovered in previous reviews. That’s despite a new rule that requires all retailers claiming prizes of more than $1,000 to identify themselves and collect their winnings in person at lottery offices in Richmond or Kamloops.
“I think it’s also clear that there’s no evidence that anything untoward happened in those cases. but I’m not naive about it,” Les said. “The fact of the matter is that once the ticket is gone, the evidence is gone too.”
One recommendation that remains to be completed is the registration of all lottery retailers so they can’t conceal their role when claiming prizes. The latest report also recommends monitoring the retailers’ requirement to stamp all winning tickets as paid and return them to customers.
The report also points out that the Solicitor General is responsible for both the lottery corporation and its regulator, the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, which could create “an actual or perceived conflict of interest.” Other Crown corporations such as BC Hydro and ICBC report to one minister and have their oversight directed by another one.
Les noted that the report also found benefits to the current arrangement, but promised to examine whether changes should be made.
He rejected the suggestion that lottery retailers should be forbidden from placing bets or buying tickets altogether, and said the ban on retailers playing at their own establishments is enough.
It was the string of wins by some retailers revealed in the Ombudsman’s report that sparked a shakeup of the corporation. One store clerk in Vancouver won 11 times on Sports Action since 2001, collecting prizes worth more than $300,000. Others were repeat winners on Keno, and some won large lottery prizes.
In the wake of that report, corporation CEO Les Poleschuk was fired and replaced by interim CEO Dana Hayden.