How many unclaimed $$ does it take for the OLG to investigate?

OLG’s long-admired logo. © Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

Last December, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (the OLG), tracked down a woman who was the winner of a $50 million prize but did not claim her ticket. Through their investigation over months, they found Hamilton, ON woman to be the winner of what OLG calls the largest unclaimed jackpot in Canadian history.

I’ll admit, if I was Kathryn Jones of Hamilton, Ontario and today was December 3rd, 2013 (when the information was confirmed and made public), I would be jumping off the wall. $50 million in their name… anyone in that position would certainly be on “Cloud 649.” But what concerns me is not the fact that she won, or the amount of her winnings, nor her wonderful fate that brought her those funds despite her losing her ticket. What concerns me is the fact that OLG tracked her down, and the questionable policy breaches and future conflicts that may stem from it.

HOW MANY DOLLARS ARE NOT ENOUGH DOLLARS?

In which cases does OLG track down the winner?

Where do they draw the line? Is there a distinction between whether or not they will bother with unclaimed prize tickets of under $100,000? What about prizes under $1 million, or the guaranteed $1 million prizes they’ve recently introduced? Will they track all of them down if some of them go unclaimed? Are the scratch ticket lottery games’ winners tracked if unclaimed, or it only Lotto 649? Is it only for jackpots that they would track down the unclaimed winners of, or are winners of the “3/6 match” and “5/6 match” prizes of a few hundred thousand dollars also worth tracking? Where do they draw the line?

SHOCKED AND HAPPY, YES; BUT INSECURE?

I can empathize with the emotions of the winning family: certainly shock first; then an elated sense of happiness; adrenaline, even; gratefulness for the OLG investigators who found the ticket owner. But I doubt one of the thoughts in their head was insecurity. In reality, since I’m sitting outside the bubble of satisfaction that comes from winning $50 million, I can think critically and logically.

According to a news report I watched on a local TV station, the OLG traced the winning ticket back to a Shoppers Drug Mart. They used a collection of security tapes, credit card records, store transactions and employee witnesses to verify the winner. Because this was all for a good purpose (winning $50 million), people aren’t raising any eyebrows, but I ask, why not? Why is okay for purchases, made in confidentiality (you would think) through a credit card at a store in the neighbourhood, to be tracked so far that the organization (luckily, it was the OLG, not a terrorist group or an assassin) can identify the person who made that purchase?

OLG’s Data Analysis and Retrieval Technology (DART) system allows them to track tickets, purchasers, evaluate buying habits of those purchasers, and more. Although a valuable tool in preventing lottery fraud, it, like other institutional tools, borders on privacy infringement. Again, where do they draw the line?

This is just some food for thought. Certainly, if I was the winner, I would be ecstatic and wouldn’t ask too many questions. Would such a “happy ending” situation like this ever warrant critical analysis? I believe not, but that is what makes it all the more important to question it. We are biased in our opinions, as everyone is allowed to be. But when we allow it to get in the way of our judgement and our ability to question the world around us, are where issues arise. I challenge you to think outside the box, think critically, ask questions and get answers. Be afraid only of not having the truth, nothing else.

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