Up the street to play the numbers

After the discovery that millions of dollars in lottery winnings have been claimed by retailers, storeowners are being forced to buy at rival convenience stores if they want to continue their own search for the next big jackpot.

From a consumer’s perspective, Rami Yousif, Min-A-Mart owner at the corner of Pape and Danforth avenues, agrees with the new rules being implemented by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) on Tuesday.

The rule was designed by the OLG to stop storeowners from cheating the lottery system. But Yousif questions the new policy.

 “It’s not fair for us because I would have to leave the store and go somewhere else to play when I could just play in my own store. It doesn’t make sense but it’s the law. What can we do,” he says.

The new law is being implemented after a 2007 auditor’s report revealed that $198 million has been won by retailers over a 13 year span.

Although Yousif does not play the lottery very much and does not know how people could cheat the system, he says he has witnessed what he thought was lottery tampering.

 “I used to go to a convenience store and when I entered, the screen (OLG display screen) was off,” Yousif said. “How can the screen be off when the system was on? I have no clue.”

Yousif feels the storeowner may have unplugged the screen in an attempt to claim prizes.

Storeowner Peter Chen says he doesn’t agree with the new OLG regulations. Like Yousif, he does not understand why he has to leave his store to play a game that is already offered at his business.

He explains, however, that because there are OLG display screens in almost all convenience stores, the problem is not as bad as OLG has made it seem. People can use the screens to check the amount they’ve won, however, he says certain people have to be more aware of what their winnings are.

 “If you see the screen and it says that you’re a winner, then nobody can cheat you. But for older people, they do not always check the screen and sometimes if they are a winner of $100 or $200 the storeowner will tell them that they only won $10 and keep the rest of the money,” Chen said.

Both Yousif and Chen say they are not 100 per cent sure how the OLG will monitor corrupt storeowners, but say the OLG has regional managers who visit their stores on a regular basis and have recently been educating them on the ban.