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Report: Ontario stores stole lottery millions

By JIM FOX
Published April 1, 2007


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Corruption in the Ontario lottery system has swindled players out of millions in winnings, an ombudsman's report says.

The government called in the police after Ombudsman Andre Marin accused retailers of collecting "tens of millions of dollars" in "dishonest" winnings.

As well, the government agency's top executives let the sellers get away with the scam, he added.

It was a searing indictment of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. and was prompted by a TV report showing that many lottery retailers claimed winnings.

The OLG ignored allegations of widespread retailer fraud while "coddling" ticket sellers and rebuffing customers who said they had been cheated, Marin said.

From 1999 to 2006, retailers claimed about $100-million in tax-free prizes. The inquiry quickly identified five fraudulent retailer claims amounting to $15-million.

OLG chief executive Duncan Brown left his job just before the report was released and received severance pay of $720,000.

Lottery officials who raised concerns about claims, including one for $12.5-million, were told by Brown that "sometimes you hold your nose," Marin said.

British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are also investigating reports lottery retailers there have won a disproportionate number of prizes.

Quebec voters register discontent with Liberals

The Quebec election that gave Jean Charest's government a slim win is seen as a victory for a united Canada.

Voters, however, sent a message to Charest that they weren't pleased with his performance by giving his Liberals a minority government - the first in Quebec in 40 years.

The big winner was Mario Dumont's right-wing Action democratique du Quebec, which surged to second place.

The Liberals have 48 representatives in the Quebec Legislature while the ADQ has 41 and the independence-seeking Parti Quebecois fell to 36.

PQ leader Andre Boisclair noted: "Sovereignty independence is still desirable, but in the short term it can't be achieved."

In brief

- The government is investigating allegations that top Mounties committed fraud involving the force's pension and insurance plans. Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said he will name an investigator to review the complaints. Former commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli, who resigned in December, is expected to be called before the investigation committee.

- With the possibility of a spring federal election, polls show the governing Conservatives are widening their lead. Leger Marketing said Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives have the support of 33 percent of respondents. The Liberals dropped to 22 percent, the New Democrats 12 percent, the Bloc Quebecois 7 percent and the Green Party 5 percent with 21 percent undecided.

- Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty wants to form partnerships with states including Arizona, California, New Mexico and New York to fight climate change. It makes sense for Ontario to work with its neighbors to reduce greenhouse gases, he said.

Facts and figures

The value of the Canadian dollar has risen to a high for the year at 86.72 cents U.S. The U.S. dollar returns $1.1531 in Canadian funds before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 4.25 percent; the prime lending rate is 6 percent.

Stock markets were mixed, with the Toronto exchange index lower Friday at 13,160 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange higher at 3,178 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 7, 20, 24, 25, 29 and 45; bonus 36. (March 24) 1, 13, 19, 26, 32 and 46; bonus 28.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

[Last modified April 1, 2007, 01:28:13]


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