Alleges 'systemic misrepresentation' of scratch games, seeks $100M
Regina lawyer Tony Merchant has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Western Canadian Lottery Corporation (WCLC) and the corresponding provincial agencies over scratch-and-win tickets.
The case is being brought forth "on behalf of all persons who, since Nov. 1, 2001, purchased or acquired scratch-and-win tickets from a game order for which all tickets containing top prizes had already been sold," reads the statement of claim filed in the Court of Queen's Bench in Regina on Tuesday.
"There's a systemic misrepresentation with scratch-and-win lotteries," Merchant said Wednesday.
"People are led to believe that they can win $1 million or whatever the prizes are, at a time frequently when the top prize has already been won and the corporation knows the top prize has been won. All the while they misrepresent that it's available."
On average a top prize is won after 50 percent of lottery tickets are sold. That means that 50 percent of people buying tickets are purchasing at a time when they can't win the top prize. The claim that has been filed is seeking damages of no less than $100 million, explained Merchant.
A representative for the WCLC said the corporation had not received any legal information pertaining to the lawsuit and could not comment.
Merchant said a "couple of dozen" people had already contacted Merchant Law Group LLP about taking part in the lawsuit.
The statement of claim also notes that "the plaintiffs and class members were unable to examine the back of their respective scratch-and-win tickets prior to purchase, as the tickets were in glass display cases and could only be inspected after purchase.
"On the back of each ticket in minuscule print were the words 'Some of the prizes offered by this game may have already been claimed.' The WCLC continues this practice."
Later on in the claim it mentions "the WCLC has the means and the legal obligation to immediately stop selling the remaining tickets from the game that the WCLC knows do not carry a chance to win the top prize."
Merchant believes Canada needs to adopt similar practices as the United States.
"Here is an abuse of Saskatchewan people and Western Canadian people and it should be changed," said Merchant. "In similar circumstances in some parts of the United States when the top prizes have been won, they pull the lottery. That means they have to charge more for the tickets to make up for it, but at least it's fair to people."
There are two goals that Merchant is hoping to accomplish with this lawsuit.
"The first aim is to stop this wrongdoing that's being visited upon people. The second aim is they ought not to profit from their wrongdoing so we want the damages and it's easy to calculate the damages," said Merchant.
"The lottery corporation has the records, two years ago, six years ago, and they know when the top prizes on any lottery were won. So tickets purchased after that time were purchased under this misrepresentation. So the damages would be, return the money that people ought not to have lost.
"It's easy to determine how much the lottery corporation ought to be repaying. The difficulty is how do you determine to whom the lottery corporation should pay the money?"