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B.C. Lottery shuts down retailer as probe continues

Apr 20, 2007, 8:40 am

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British Columbia Lottery

Details not released but latest closure is fifth this year

The British Columbia Lottery Corp. has yanked its ticketing terminals from a North Shore kiosk — the fifth such shutdown this year, the company says.

The move came amid an investigation by B.C. ombudsman Kim Carter of how fairly the provincial lottery system is being run. Her findings are expected to be released next month.

As controversy rages nationwide on the suspiciously high number of ticket sellers collecting on winning tickets, Carter is focusing on how the company monitors retailers and how it ensures that individuals presenting winning tickets are the real purchasers.

Operators of three Vancouver ticket outlets told The Province yesterday, on condition of anonymity, that lottery officials had contacted them as part of an investigation. They wouldn't elaborate and a lottery spokeswoman was unable to provide details yesterday.

The tiny North Van kiosk, perched outside a Safeway store at 13th and Lonsdale, was closed Tuesday when corporation officials arrived to pull its equipment from the stand.

Kari-Lyn Pisoney, a North Van resident who has been buying tickets at the outlet for eight years, told The Province she arrived mid-afternoon Tuesday to check a ticket, only to find two women guarding the booth and the longtime vendor "dumb-faced" inside.

When she asked if she could check her ticket, one of the women initially refused, then relented, Pisoney said.

Fifteen minutes later, an unmarked van pulled up and two men began confiscating machines as one of the women told the vendor he "had been warned about this before," she added.

A handwritten note reading "Closed" was taped to the window yesterday. A number of ads for phone cards papered the walls; a red awning sporting the words "Lotto 6/49" was the only hint it had once been a ticket outlet.

Citing confidentiality provisions, corporation spokeswoman Robin Cook refused to say who ran the outlet or why the agreement that permitted them to sell tickets was cancelled.

Cook said the corporation "takes the security and integrity of our games and our commitment to providing a high level of customer service seriously. If our standards are not upheld, we have the right to terminate [contracts.]"

Cook said the North Vancouver outlet sold a Super 7 ticket for the May 19, 2006, draw in which the ticketholder won $44,155.50 — its only claimed win of $10,000 or more in the past year.

In B.C., retailers are winning an estimated six times more prizes than they statistically should.

In Ontario, police are investigating tens of millions of dollars in dubious jackpots paid to retailers.

In Nova Scotia, the government is investigating reports that retailers are 10 times "luckier" than the public on ticket purchases.

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