A legal battle over ownership of a $3.5 million winning lottery ticket could have been averted by one simple act the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation "strongly recommends" — signing the ticket.
"We very strongly recommend players sign the ticket at the time they buy the ticket," said Don Pister, a commission spokesman. "Do it when you purchase the ticket. Don't wait until you know it's won a prize."
An 81-year-old Windsor man is suing his 59-year-old wife, claiming she stole his winning ticket off his bedside table, then gave it to her daughter to cash in. The woman subsequently began divorce proceedings against her husband.
In allegations yet to be proven in court, Gerald Moore, a retired carpenter with a pacemaker, further claims his wife, Patricia, tampered with his heart and blood pressure medications so he couldn't immediately appreciate what she'd done. In an interview Wednesday, Patricia denied every one of her husband's claims against her.
Gerald said he never signed the ticket.
He also names the lottery company in his lawsuit, claiming it did not do enough to establish the identity of the ticket's rightful owner.
The OLGC began an investigation into Gerald's complaint before he filed his lawsuit last week, said Lisa Murray, spokeswoman for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission. The lottery corporation refers all cases of "suspicious wins" to the gaming commission, which in turn works with a special team of OPP investigators. Every case where two people claim the same prize is flagged as a "suspicious win," Murray explained.
"It was not the lawsuit that triggered the investigation," she said.
Patricia Moore's daughter, Bobbie-Jo Arnold claimed the $3.5 million prize for the April 2 Lotto 6/49 lottery. In an interview at the time, she said she was "numb" to learn of her win.
After a raft of suspicious wins by lottery retailers, the commission introduced its "prize integrity program" in January 2008. Tickets now include a signature line on the front which must be signed before retailers can validate them.