OTTAWA — An Ontario, Canada, couple who won a $50 million Lotto Max jackpot last week said they expected to have trouble collecting their winnings.
Jo Ann and Gaetan Champagne have received a barrage of questions from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission: Did you buy the Lotto Max ticket? How did you come up with the numbers? Where did you get the ticket from?
The Champagnes said they aren't fazed. "We know the rules," said Jo Ann.
"I remember leaving the convenience store and we both looked at each other and said, 'Oh no. They're going to be checking us now.'"
The Champagnes are what the OLG calls "insider winners" — a category that includes OLG employees, employee family members and Lotto retailers.
The couple owned and operated Jo's Depanneur, a Hawkesbury, Ont., convenience store that was licensed to sell Lotto tickets. They sold the business Oct. 31. Jo Ann continued to work there, but quit the day they won the cash prize — on New Year's Eve.
OLG spokesman Tony Bitonti says the investigation is "standard procedure."
Any prize above $1,000 is automatically investigated. Because the Champagnes are insider winners, there's an extra level of scrutiny.
"We want to make sure that we pay the right prize to the right person every time," Bitonti said.
The win meant two investigations: one by the OLG — which wrapped up Wednesday —and another by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. Bitonti expects the second investigation to take a few days to a few weeks.
"More than likely, we'll receive a notice saying everything is good," Bitonti said. "They followed OLG rules."
It's not over after that, though. Following the questioning is a mandatory 30-day wait period. Under OLG policy, this gives people a chance to call in if there are any concerns. After the 30 days, if there are no concerns, the OLG will give the Champagnes their prize money.
If the Champagnes had bought and validated the ticket at their own convenience store, they would have been ineligible for the cash prize. Jo Ann said this is why she's bought Lotto tickets from other corner stores for more than a decade.
The couple said they are untroubled by the delay. "I don't see why we shouldn't get it, we didn't do anything wrong," said Jo Ann. "We're sure we're going to get it."
The Champagnes had bought the ticket at a small convenience store in Hawkesbury. They plan on using the money to help their two sons, aged 27 and 30. They also want to purchase a new home and donate some of their winnings to the hospital and the local food shelter, which was robbed on Christmas Eve.
"We have too many plans," Jo Ann Champagne said. "Soon we'll be broke."