In a classic case of the Grinch stealing Christmas, Ontario Lotteries and Gaming (OLG) has had to withdraw its holiday gift pack of scratch tickets from the market.
A problem with the production of the gift pack prompted the recall, CBC Toronto has learned.
The six scratch tickets were missing from the packages and empty packs were being sold to customers.
When contacted, an OLG spokesperson said the $10 holiday gift packs were recalled from sale "out of an abundance of caution" and in a bid to preserve the integrity of the games.
"We received a few reports from customers and retailers about empty packages being sold or received at the retail and there were some issues with the outer packaging," Tony Bitonti told CBC Toronto.
A source said a small opening on the packs allowed for the removal of the scratch tickets.
"We did get a number of customer and retail complaints that some of these packages were empty. Once we did an investigation and review of the tickets we did find that it was a production problem," Bitonti said.
"We did discover that there was a production issue with the packaging, so out of an abundance of caution ... and to preserve the integrity of this game specifically, and also to prevent customer dissatisfaction from getting an empty package, we've removed all the tickets that are currently on sale from the retail locations."
By the time the problem had been discovered, the $50,000 top prize for the holiday gift pack had already been claimed.
Bitonti said the tickets were being sold across Ontario and while he could not provide the exact number of gift packs which were placed on the market, he said there were hundreds of thousands.
'We don't have backups'
With mere days to go before Christmas, the OLG spokesman said it's too late to return the tickets to the market.
"When an instant ticket is created, from design to production, its months in advance, maybe almost a year; the production of the ticket is done months in advance and then they are stored and then they have to be distributed across the province," Bitonti said.
"The instant gift pack, because they are such a unique product for the holiday season, we don't have backups," he said.
"If it was, for example, an instant bingo ticket or cash for life, those are very popular ones, so we always have a series of those so the next iteration of the game is ready to go because they are very popular. Those, if we take something off market we have something to replace it with," Bitonti added.
Unlike 649 and Lotto Max, which are sold nationally, the gift packs and other instant tickets are created by OLG and sold only within Ontario.