Reaction mixed among local retailers over new lottery ban

Peggy Revell

Reaction is mixed as the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. prepares to roll out even more regulations—this time with a “No-Play-At-Work” rule that will ban registered retailers and their employees from purchasing lottery tickets from their own stores.
“Honestly, I’m sick and tired of being accused of being a thief and I’m frankly thinking about no longer being a retailer of lottery tickets,” said Craig Sanders, owner of The Place and 364 Store here.
“The internal corruption that’s going on inside the corporation is not news, and a small handful of dishonest retailers are ruining it for the rest of us.”
Under the new regulation, which kicks in Nov. 3, retailers who still wish to play the lottery will be required to purchase and redeem their tickets at a location that’s not their own.
“This new policy ensures that everyone who buys or cashes a lottery ticket does so the same way—from the customer’s side of the counter,” said Greg McKenzie, OLG’s senior vice-president for its lottery branch.
“It’s a simple and transparent way of restricting insider play,” he noted. “It means that if you’re a retailer and you want to play the lottery, you’ll now have to wait until after work and buy your tickets at someone else’s store.
“Retailers can no longer be both the player and the vendor at the same time.”
But it’s the principle of being lumped in with the few retailers who have broken the law that Sanders said is most upsetting about the new regulation.
“A million honest retailers across the province are being accused, and are being penalized, because of the action of a few—and because the corporation itself is corrupt and is trying to lay the blame off on somebody else,” he charged.
“It’s very disheartening.”
Sanders noted the OLG already has put into place “at least three or four levels of security over the course of the last year”—safeguards that mean dishonest retailers can be prosecuted easily.
“I think we should prosecute those who are breaking the law and leave the law-abiding citizens alone,” he stressed.
“Don’t paint me with the same brush as you paint people who are being dishonest.”
The new regulation most likely won’t affect business with his employees having to buy tickets at other stores, Sanders noted, but added it more likely will make it harder for him to find staff.
“Because of all the restrictions now all of a sudden, no one is going to want to work at a lottery retailer because of some of the things that they have to go through in order to work in a store that sells lottery tickets,” he explained.
“It’s getting to the point where you have to have a criminal check to work in a store that sells lottery tickets, and it’s just beyond ridiculous.”
But for Grant Perreault at the CC Complex on Couchiching, he’s all right with the changes, saying he’ll just end up going to another store if he wants to buy a ticket.
“And if it makes everything more accountable then, that’s all we’re looking for,” he added.
For Norma Blight of Rainy River Drugs, the only place in that town where the OLG tickets can be bought, the new regulation is an inconvenience, but something that she’ll deal with.
“Obviously, it’s something that they have put in place and they’re not going to change it,” she reasoned. “So this is basically just a matter of opinion.
“If I want to continue to do my job, I don’t buy the occasional lottery ticket. So you weigh the pros and cons—do I want a job or do I want to buy a lottery ticket?”
She and the others working at the store aren’t big gamblers to begin with, Blight noted, with herself just buying the same number every week—something she’ll now have to do by subscription through another store.
“I’ve not won in 50 some years so I’m not concerned about it,” she laughed.
“It’s disappointing, it’s maybe inconvenient if you actually want to purchase a ticket,” Blight added, noting that if she and the other staff members did want to buy a ticket, the nearest location in Canada for them to do so would be in Emo.
“They’re not happy, but there’s not a lot you can do about it,”
But like Sanders, Barb Stainke of the Bonnie Blue on Scott Street here is upset over the proposed changes—and what she sees as the OLG calling herself and other retailers untrustworthy.
There already are precautions in place to prevent retailer fraud, she stressed, such as any tickets she checks or plays having to be tagged as “retailer play” to begin with.
“So they’re already tagged in the system,” Stainke explained. “And I have no problem with them saying that if it’s not tagged retailer play, you don’t get cash.”
Meanwhile, she already has to list everybody who touches her lottery terminal—even if they only occasionally work at her store—and so this new ban also will extend to these people.
“So based on where my mother-in-law works, she can’t purchase tickets here,” Stainke said. “So they’re telling me who my customers can and cannot be.”
As well, having to go to another store to buy a ticket is just bad business, she remarked.
“In what universe would you go to the competition, and pay them the interest and the charges?” she wondered. “Like if I went and bought a ticket at the 364 Store, they would get the three percent commission or the one percent commission.
“Why would you support your competition, putting yourself out of business?”
But the proposed changes have garnered praise from Ontario Ombudsman André Marin, who had considered recommending such a ban in February if the OLG didn’t take steps needed to prevent “insider” wins.
“There’s a point where enough is enough,” Marin said in a press release following the government’s announcement on the OLG.
He called the ban “an inexpensive and practical solution.”