Could massive theft and/or deception by retailers be the reason?
Lottery ticket sellers won 10 times more often than statistically they should have over the last six years, the Atlantic Lottery Corp. said Wednesday.
So far, the review hasn't shown any wrongdoing by retailers in the four Atlantic provinces, an official said.
"Can I statistically explain why retailers are winning 10 times more? No, I can't, and I'm not going to sit here and speculate as to why," said Mike Randall, a corporation vice-president.
The corporation reviewed prizes over a six-year period, from Jan. 1, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2006, and had an expert interpret its findings.
Jacques Allard, with Maritime Statistical Analysis Inc., looked at the self-reported spending of retailers and found they won 10 times more often than statistically they should have.
Out of 1,293 wins of more than $25,000, there were 44 wins by retailers and 25 by store clerks. Those wins totalled $7.5 million, which, Randall said, accounted for less than 0.5 per cent of total prize money paid out over the six-year period.
Randall said officials looked at 44 cases and could find no pattern. The winnings occurred in every type of game and across all four provinces.
"The vast majority of our retailers are honest, hard-working folk," Randall said.
Nevertheless, Sid Chedrawe, with the Independent Food Stores Association, worries the revelation tarnishes retailers.
"Are they saying in a backhanded manner that we are going to find these people guilty one way or another down the road?" Chedrawe asked.
Anomalies in Ontario
Last fall, an investigation by CBC's The Fifth Estate found statistical anomalies in Ontario. Clerks and retailers claimed lottery victories nearly 200 times, when, according to a statistician, they should have been expected to win around 57 times.
Now the CBC has learned that contrary to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation's claims, the case of an elderly Ontario man whose $250,000 lottery ticket was stolen by a retail clerk might not have been an isolated one.
Fifth Estate producer Harvey Cashore said the lottery revelations are significant news for all Canadians who buy lottery tickets.
"We're finding out now that you may have indeed won the lottery and never have known it," he told CBC Newsworld.
Cashore said he has never heard of a lottery corporation in North America admitting to a problem like this, and commended Atlantic Lotto for its "proactive stance."
Atlantic Lotto improving security
The Atlantic Lottery Corp. is taking steps to improve security, Randall said.
It has special terminals where players can check their own tickets, and by the end of June, screens on all 3,600 of its terminals will face ticket holders so they can watch while the retailer checks their numbers.
The corporation is also considering doing background checks on retailers.
As for ticket buyers, Randall said they can protect themselves by signing the back of their tickets and asking for validation slips at the counter.