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Regina law firm files class action suit over scratch and win lottery tickets


REGINA - A Regina law firm is betting it can change the way scratch-and-win tickets are sold in Canada with a class-action lawsuit that seeks "not less than" $100 million from the Western Canada Lottery Corp.
The Merchant Law Group says the suit would be brought on behalf of people who bought tickets from games in which the top prizes had already been sold. So far there are 20 plaintiffs.
The suit also names lottery commissions in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Yukon, but firm spokesman Tony Merchant said he hopes it will eventually stretch across Canada. The claims the suit makes have not been proven in court.
At issue are tickets ranging from the $1 "Darts Doubler" to the $20 "Player's Choice Megapack" that offer the possibility of a range of instant prizes when the playing surface is scratched.
"Somebody makes a purchase and they think they can win the grand prize but the grand prize is gone," said Merchant. "They might even be in a circumstance where all the major prizes are gone.
"In similar circumstances in the United States, with the same sort of scratch-and-win type of lotteries, when the major prize gets selected they pull the lottery. That's what they have to start doing in Canada, to be fair to people."
Andrea Marantz of the Western Canada Lottery Corp. said she couldn't comment directly on the lawsuit, but she noted the corporation's website has for two years included a chart that lays out how many prizes have been claimed and how many are still remaining for any game.
"That's like saying we let on one thing but if you do all sorts of research you can find out the truth," countered Merchant. "That will be their defence, that somebody could determine the truth, but the reality is that nobody ever does that."
A check of the lottery website Tuesday evening indicated that as of last Thursday - the date the site had been most recently updated - top prizes were still available for all games that had been released since August.
Some games that had been released earlier already had the top prizes claimed, such as Lucky 7's, which went on sale on May 10. Its top prize of $7,777 was gone, leaving three prizes of $777.
Bingo Double Up, which was released June 21, had already seen top prizes of $50,000, $10,000, $5,000 and $1,000 claimed, leaving one prize of $500 and 144 prizes of $100.
Marantz also noted that with some games such as BlackJack, the selling point is not the size of the top prize of $21,000, but the fact there are 200,000 prizes available.
"The way Scratch 'n Win games work is they're all printed at once and they're released into the retail environment with a prize pool," she explained. "Then what we put on our website is the prizes remaining, so that as prizes are claimed, we put on our website what remains in that prize pool."
She said in many games, the top prizes only make up five to seven per cent of the prize pool.
"So you've got 95 per cent of the prizes in the lower tiers. We could still, depending on the game, be talking about prizes of $500,000, $100,000, $10,000."
But Merchant dismissed the explanation.
"What matters is that at the point of sale, they are misrepresenting to the customer that they can win a big prize when it's just, in many instances, not true," he said.
He said the suit seeks an injunction enjoining the Western Canada Lottery Corp. from selling tickets in games for which the top prizes have already been won and an order requiring the corporation to repay all monies acquired from such sales.

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