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Critics renew call for lottery inquiry

Jul 31, 2008, 9:35 pm

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Ontario Lottery and Gaming CorporationOntario Lottery and Gaming Corporation: Critics renew call for lottery inquiry

Critics say a public inquiry into the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. is long overdue after police revealed they had no evidence to charge a former retailer who won 167 prizes worth $1.2 million over a nine-year period.

"There is a stink there," New Democrat justice critic Peter Kormos said yesterday, insisting a forensic audit of past winners first promised by lottery officials June 3 and again this week is not enough.

"It's not about the one retailer. It's about what has been going on at OLG," Kormos added.

"A forensic audit doesn't answer the question about what the high-priced management help have been doing at OLG for all these years while this has been going on literally under their noses."

The issue of wins by lottery insiders came to a head 18 months ago after Ontario Ombudsman André Marin found $100 million in prizes over $50,000 went to retailers and their staff from 1999 to 2006.

Ontario Provincial Police said lottery officials turned the case of the former northern Ontario retailer over to the force in April, but an investigation has found no wrongdoing.

Barry and Corrie Jackson operated a general store in Jellicoe, northeast of Thunder Bay. Barry Jackson has since died. With sons Rob and Trevor, the family won frequently between 1995 and 2004, which Rob, in an interview with CBC, attributed to luck.

Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory questioned why it took so long for OLG officials to flag the case and get police on it.

Tory said he's concerned the forensic audit of winners and trends from 1995 to 2006 by Deloitte and Touche won't be thorough enough.

"It can only be seen as truly independent if somebody else at least works with them and signs off on the terms of reference," he added, suggesting a legislative committee or Marin, the ombudsman.

Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman said there is no need for an inquiry because the forensic audit is in addition to several OPP investigations and Marin's report.

The audit will look at past winners and trends from 1995 to 2006, with any questionable cases being turned over to the OPP, said OLG spokesperson John Letherby, adding the audit ends with 2006 because the corporation is confident it has had a grip on the situation since then.

Concerns about the lottery system came to light in 2006 when it was revealed that Bob Edmonds, a 78-year-old man from Coboconk, was cheated out of $250,000 by a lottery retailer who switched his winning ticket in 2001. Edmonds, who has since died, complained repeatedly to lottery officials but was ignored and faced a legal battle until the OPP investigated.

Since that probe and Marin's report, the lottery corporation has made it mandatory for customers to sign their tickets before a retailer can validate them. As well, retailers must register with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and undergo background checks.

Toronto Star

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