Clean up Ontario lottery corporation, critics say

Opposition critics are calling for an overhaul of the scandal-plagued Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and the resignation of its chief.

Opposition critics are calling for an overhaul of the scandal-plagued Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and the resignation of its chief.

Since the fall, the lottery corporationhas been plagued with a string of bad-news stories, sparked by an investigation by CBC's The Fifth Estate. Several lottery clerks have been accused of stealing winning tickets from customers and cashing in millions of dollars inprizes themselves.

At the same time, scratch tickets have been recalled because of security concerns, and an investigation showed that lottery clerks have won prizes nearly 200 times in seven years — a statistical anomaly, according to experts.

"There's going to have to be housecleaning," said Peter Kormos, the NDP member ofthe provincial legislaturefor Niagara Centre.

"The government's going to have to use either the [Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario] or another body to do an arm's-length, independent supervision and regulation of the OLG."

The lottery corporation, a government agency, currently polices itself.

Bob Runciman, a Conservative member of the Ontario legislature,is calling for a forensic audit and more investigations.

Thecorporation's troubles began in the fall whenTheFifth Estate told the story of 82-year-old Bob Edmonds, a Coboconk, Ont., resident who sued the lottery in 2005. Edmonds alleged he won $250,000, but that his prize was fraudulently claimed at a local corner store.

Thecorporation ended up paying Edmonds a $100,000 settlement.He signed a confidentiality agreement as part of the deal.

Suspected fraud probed for years

Duncan Brown, head of the lottery corporation, responded to the CBC story by saying he didn't necessarily accept the claims presented. He said he didn't believe that the corporationwas paying out millions to fraudulent winners.

But The Fifth Estate on Wednesday revealed that thelottery corporation has actually been investigating suspected insider fraud since 2003.

The FifthEstate obtained a leakedlottery corporationdocument that showed in 2003 alone, the lottery corporation was investigating six suspicious lottery claims from clerks whose stories did not add up. One of the six cases involved Edmonds.

Critic sees serious questions

Runciman, the Conservative justice and gaming critic,said Brown should have been upfront about the lottery's past investigations.

"Whether or not he knew, and if he did know, why didn't he provide accurate answers [to reporters]?" said Runciman, who represents Leeds-Grenville.

"And if he didn't know, why didn't he know as CEO of the corporation? … I think there's serious issues, serious questions which we will be pursuing in the legislature next week."

Kormos thinks Brown should resign, while Runciman saysthe lottery leader'sfuture looks shaky.

"I would say he's on pretty thin ice," Runciman said.

The CBC's request for interviews with Brown and spokespeople at a variety of Ontario government ministries were denied Thursday.