An admitted gambling addict has become the first person in B.C. to sue the provincial lottery corporation for not stopping her from gambling, a lapse that she says cost her hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Joyce May Ross of Delta, B.C., has filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court alleging negligence and breach of contract on the part of B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC) and the owners of the two casinos where she frequently gambled.
The 54-year-old was a member of the self-exclusion program administered by BCLC but claims the program failed to prevent her from entering gaming facilities for three years.
In that time, Ross blew more than $330,000 in life savings and loans from friends.
"I was totally out of control, and I knew I needed help," Ross told CBC News Tuesday. "But I couldn't help myself at that time. I knew I needed help."
The program is intended to prevent compulsive gamblers from entering casinos by using surveillance systems to catch the addicts before they spend any money and using fines of up to $5,000 to discourage them if they are caught.
CBC News reported in May that other compulsive gamblers had also found the self-exclusion program ineffective and that in 11 years, BCLC had not levied a single fine against anyone in the program.
The defendants named in Ross's lawsuit are BCLC, Orangeville Raceway Ltd. and Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Inc. The suit claims that although security staff at the two casinos who knew Ross spotted her repeatedly entering the premises, "not once did they make any attempt" to stop her.
Ross is seeking damages and restitution of the money she lost gambling during the time she was self-excluded.
Gambling is technically illegal in Canada and is permissible only through exemptions granted to the provinces, according to Ross's lawyer, James Hanson.
Hanson argues the self-exclusion agreement that Ross signed with BCLC effectively cancelled that exemption for her.
"Gambling by people who are self-excluded gamblers is, quite simply put, criminal gambling," he said. "And it's wrong, in our view, for the government to be unjustly enriched through the illegal gambling."