New Brunswick

Insider wins jump at Atlantic Lottery for big prizes

The percentage of big prize Atlantic Lottery winners connected to the company tripled last year, a fluctuation the company said was just normal.

The percentage of big prize Atlantic Lottery Corporation winners connected to the company tripled last year, a fluctuation the company said was normal.

But a New Brunswick mathematician called the jump "wacky" and said more explanation is needed.

ALC started tracking the number of "non-arm’s length" winners four years ago, after allegations that ticket sellers in Ontario were stealing the winning numbers.

The term refers to people who work for ALC or its suppliers, or people who own or work at stores that sell tickets or family members of the same group.

Year Non-arm's Length winners for  prizes $25K+ Other winners Total wins Percent of non-arm's length winners
2010-11 30       222 252 11.9
2009-10 19 426 445 4.3
2008-09 17 207 224 7.6
2007-08 14 190 204 6.9

In 2010-11, the non-arm’s length winners for big prizes jumped to 11.9 per cent compared to 4.3 per cent the previous year. That means that almost one in eight prizes worth more than $25,000 went to someone connected to ALC or its suppliers.

ALC does a minimum 30-day investigation of any non-arm's-length winner. In 2010-11, 30 people claiming prizes were approved by this process.

Two people who claimed prizes were rejected; both were employees who had stolen a large number of tickets from the stores at which they worked.

Atlantic Lottery spokeswoman Sarah McBeath said the percentage of non-arm's length winners has been consistent across all prize categories.

"We remain at a consistent four per cent, year over year," she said.

She said the jump in the big prize category was just a random shift.

More explanation needed

But a mathematician at the University of New Brunswick said the "wacky" shift was not normal.

Maureen Tingley used a statistical model to calculate the chance of it happening randomly. She said it was a three in 1,000 chance.

"When I say there's something strange going on, I’m saying there's a 0.3 [per cent] chance I've reached the wrong conclusion," she said. "If you took four consecutive years over and over again, a thousand times, you'd expect to see something this wacky about three times."

Tingley said there likely is a reason for the fluctuation, but she does not accept the lottery company’s explanation.

"I don't think that's good enough. They should be asking themselves why it's happened," she said. "For example, if there was a big increase in the number of ticket outlets or salespersons between 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, then we would expect to see the percent of non-arm's length prizes to increase."

ALC has offered games on behalf of the governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island since 1976.

Police probe Ontario wins

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation has been rocked by scandals. Since 2007, hundreds of Ontario wins have come under question and the Ontario Provincial Police has taken on a key role in the investigations.

A forensic audit released in February 2009 revealed that Ontario lottery retailers, employees and their families have taken home $198 million in prizes over the past 13 years.

Starting on Jan. 1, 2008, a unit of 14 OPP officers has been working with the OLG regulator, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, to investigate insider and suspicious wins.

In 2008, the OPP probed 477 insider and suspicious wins, resulting in charges against 14 people. To date in 2009, 355 such wins have been investigated and four people charged.