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September 5, 2007

Lottery Corporation Hides its Problems

I donated $500 to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society this evening so they won't suffer due to my refusal to sign a nondisclosure agreement with the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC). After all, people who are hungry suffer enough because of the Campbell government; they shouldn't also have to pay because the Lottery Corporation won't honour an agreement unless it's kept secret.

On May 2, 2007, I used BCLC's "PlayNow" online Internet gambling system to purchase a "never-miss- a-draw" ticket with my usual numbers for the Lotto 6/49 and the BC/49 plus the Extra. On May 19th three of my four Extra numbers matched the winning draw (for a prize of $1,000); imagine my disappointment when I was told that on a "never-miss-a-draw" ticket, the Extra numbers change on each draw. As of September 5th there is still nothing on the BCLC website that clearly says that. Part of the reason the changing number is a surprise is that does not happen if a player buys a ticket that repeats for a fixed number of draws. For example, a ticket purchased online for 10 draws will have the same Extra numbers for each of the draws. It is BCLC's little secret that they change your numbers after you think you've won on never-miss-a-draw tickets.

Of course, I complained to BCLC about the apparent flaw in their system, or at least their failure to clearly disclose to players how their system works. My initial phone calls were as useful as talking to a brick wall, but then controversy erupted over the May 29th release of the Ombudsman's report which contradicted the Campbell government's efforts to deny problems existed with the redemption of lottery tickets by retailers. BCLC responded with damage control in the form of its "Player First" advertising campaign, and I took the opportunity to use their new online form to resubmit my complaint. To my delight I was phoned by someone at BCLC and ultimately contacted by someone further up the food chain who thanked me for reporting the problem and who offered me $500 for my efforts. I told them that I wasn't out to shake down BCLC; I said what I wanted first and foremost was a fix to their system so players would be notified that with never-miss-a-draw the Extra number on printed tickets changes on each draw (of course, who would buy the Extra if they knew that?). Since they offered the money I said they could give it to the Vancouver Food Bank. On July 6th a BCLC Security Investigator showed up at my door with a "Final Settlement Agreement and Release" for me to sign. Included was a nondisclosure provision which I struck out and initialed before signing the agreement. Today I received a letter dated September 4, 2007, from the Director of eBusiness for BCLC which stated that without my agreement to the confidential (nondisclosure) clause BCLC is unable to provide the promised $500 to the Vancouver Food Bank.

I've submitted a complaint to the Ombudsman about the use of nondisclosure agreements by BCLC to keep the public in the dark as I've learned that my experience is not unique. A frequent critic of BCLC who emails me with the details of her difficulties in getting information from BCLC was asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement before they would release information pursuant to a freedom of information request. Of course, she refused and ultimately won, but the very powerful, billion dollar plus corporation, should not get away with trying to hide information that might influence public policy. The Ombudsman needs to take another look at how BCLC conducts its business. Its expansion into Internet gambling, the flaws in its "games", and its lack of accountability require scrutiny.

 
 

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