Canada

Lottery retailers enjoying luck of the draw: Fifth Estate probe

The CBC's The Fifth Estate has learned that in the past seven years Ontario clerks and retailers have claimed lottery victories nearly 200 times.

The CBC's The Fifth Estate has learned that in the past seven years Ontario clerks and retailers have claimed lottery victories nearly 200 times, a statistical anomaly according to one expert.

In a disputed ticket case involving a Coboconk, Ont., senior, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLGC)said there were about 60,000 people selling lottery tickets in the province.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, the CBC has learned that retailers won close to 200 times, winning on average $500,000.

Dr. Jeffrey Rosenthal, a statistician with the University of Toronto and author of Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities, said statistically retailers should have been expected to win around 57 times.

"So we can say the chance, to be precise, is about one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, so it's just inconceivable they'd be winning that many more times than we'd expect them to," said Rosenthal.

Last week, the OLGC revised its total, claiming there are actually about 140,000 retailers and clerks in Ontario.

Rosenthal argued even with that total, the number of wins was "extremely unlikely."

"It seems like there's almost certainly over a hundred people out there who've actually won a major lottery prize but they didn't collect it."

OLG spokeswoman Teresa Roncon said the corporation has upped its security measures to prevent any possible fraud.

"I think we have an excellent system in place," said Roncon.

Bob Edmonds, 81, contested a ticket he purchased at a Coboconk store in August 2001. He was given a free ticket by the store owner, but said he heard the machine ring twice, indicating a payout.

His suspicions were raised after reading a newspaper report indicating the store owner had won.

The store owners later paid Edmonds $150,000 as part of a settlement that did not admit any wrongdoing on their part.

Edmonds reached a confidential settlement with the OLGC in 2005, with the corporation spending $425,000 in legal costs on the case.

Luck of the Draw airs Wednesday night on The Fifth Estate at 9 p.m. ET.

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