The Ontario Ombudsman will investigate allegations about "insiders" winning a disproportionate number of lotteries to restore public trust in the province's lottery corporation.
André Marin said yesterday that allegations that more than 200 ticket retailers or clerks have won prizes of more than $50,000 in the past seven years have "cast a large shadow" over the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. and "brought into question its actions."
He said he had received few complaints from lottery-ticket buyers but said he was concerned with the lottery corporation's initial defensiveness and by the government's refusal to appoint an independent investigator.
Mr. Marin said he would not investigate the cases raised this week by the CBC-TV program the fifth estate. The program, using a statistical analysis, said that more than two-thirds of the wins by insiders may have involved deception. Instead, he will look into how the public is protected from theft and fraud and how the lottery corporation handles complaints from ticket buyers.
The ombudsman characterized lottery schemes not so much as a game of chance as a game of trust.
"When someone buys a lottery ticket, they recognize that the odds of winning are infinitesimal," Mr. Marin said at a news conference at Queen's Park. "They accept that risk but the risk they don't accept is that an insider not entitled to the winnings hits the jackpot and walks away with the cash."
The initiation of the investigation comes a day after Public Infrastructure Minister David Caplan insisted that the lottery corporation could get to the bottom of the matter with an internal review. At the same time, the Crown corporation, which contributes nearly $2-billion a year to the Ontario treasury, said it was a leader in lottery security.
Yesterday, Mr. Caplan said he welcomed the ombudsman's investigation and promised to act on its recommendations. "It is important that the public have trust and confidence in the lottery corporation and the games they offer."
He also said the lottery corporation would apologize to Robert Edmonds, an 82-year-old who was defrauded out of a $250,000 prize by a store owner.
But Mr. Caplan resisted calls by the Progressive Conservative opposition for a forensic audit or police investigation into the CBC allegations.
Conservative critic Bob Runciman accused the minister of blindly supporting the lottery corporation, which earlier this year was in hot water for spending $6-million for a new logo, part of a "rebranding" exercise.