Vice Squad
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Lottery Fraud?

Imagine that you and lots of other folks regularly take part in a contest of luck. As it turns out, the organizer of the contest seems to win an awful lot. That would raise your suspicions, no? Well, that scenario has played out in the western Canadian province of British Columbia, with respect to the lotteries operated by the province's agent, British Columbia Lottery Corporation, and some of the retailers who sell lottery tickets.

An Ombudsman's report (142-page pdf here) issued in May details some of the problems; the report makes for sobering reading. Whether a lottery ticket was a winner, and of how large of prize, was frequently determined by a machine under the control of retailers and not easily verifiable by the customer. So if a patron handed a lottery ticket to a retail employee to check to see if the ticket were a winner, an opportunity might have arisen. The retailer might have been able to misrepresent a winning ticket as a loser to the rightful owner, and then claim the winning prize him or herself. If the customer expressed suspicions, the retailer might have been able to backtrack, claim that an error had been made, apologize, and pass over the winnings or the winning ticket. Surely, though, such theoretical opportunities for malfeasance would not be taken advantage of in practice.

Page 25 of the Ombudsman's report summarizes some scenarios of British Columbian lottery retailers who were very, very lucky:
 • A retailer that won 13 times in 2000/2001. This retailer also won three times
in 1999/2000, two times in 1998-1999, one time in 1997/1998. The winnings for
this retailer totalled in the range of $175,000.

 • A retailer winning 11 times between 2001 and 2007. All but one of those wins,
were in excess of $10,000 and included 4 wins in 2003/2004 and four wins
2005/2006. The winnings for this retailer totalled in the range of $300,000.

 • A retailer with multiple Keno wins. In 2005/2006 there were 120 major Keno
wins. Of the 120 major Keno wins, 15 were won by retailers (1.3 per cent of the
population won approximately 12.5 per cent of all major Keno wins in
2005/2006). Of the 15 major retailer Keno wins, three were won by the same
retailer. That means that one retailer won 20 per cent of the 15 retailer Keno wins
in 2005/2006. This retailer was a joint winner and had 10 wins between 2003
and 2007 for a total win amount of about $100,000.
Wow. And people are worried that those unscrupulous offshore internet casinos might cheat their customers.

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