B.C. lotto president fired - Monday 4th of June 2007

The president of the British Columbia Lottery Corp. has been fired after a week of criticism over lax security measures to ensure that B.C. lottery winners arent ripped off by ticket sellers.

On Friday, the board of directors behind the B.C. Lotto Corp. announced Vic Poleschuk had been terminated as president and CEO, effective immediately.

"The board of directors has decided a change of leadership is required and weve taken that step," chairman John McLernon said in a news release.

The president of the British Columbia Lottery Corp. has been fired after a week of criticism over lax security measures to ensure that B.C. lottery winners arent ripped off by ticket sellers.

On Friday, the board of directors behind the B.C. Lotto Corp. announced Vic Poleschuk had been terminated as president and CEO, effective immediately.

"The board of directors has decided a change of leadership is required and weve taken that step," chairman John McLernon said in a news release.

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Font: ****The board will now turn its focus to implementing B.C. Ombudsman Kim Carters recommendations and the Lotto Corp.s Player First program, he said.

An interim chief executive officer is expected to be named next week.

According to internal lottery documents, over the past six years, those who sell lottery tickets have won 4.4 per cent of all lottery prizes over $10,000 - a rate three to six times what would be expected given their share of the population. Retailer wins were more common for some games than others, with a high of 11.6 per cent for Keno.

The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, raised fears retailers might be stealing customers winning tickets, for example by falsely telling a customer their ticket was a loser.

B.C. Solicitor General John Les said he supported the decision to fire Poleschuk. He also suggested more heads could roll after the conclusion of an independent audit he ordered Tuesday into the Lotto Corp. and its government regulator, the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch.

"Were going to make sure that everybody who played a role . . . is held accountable," he said. "Lets expose everything. Lets let the sun shine in."

Even criminal charges are not out of the question if the auditor turns up specific evidence of fraud, said Les.

However, B.C. NDP Leader Carole James said its Les - whose ministry is responsible for both BCLC and the regulatory branch - who should go.

"Its the minister whos ultimately responsible," she said.

"And it doesnt appear that hes going to resign. So I think the premier should have the courage to fire him."

Poleschuk, whos been with BCLC since 1985 and who has been its CEO since 1999, was paid $442,667 last year.

John Fraser, a spokesman for the board, said the board has not yet decided on what, if any, severance Poleschuk will receive.

Ombudsman Carters scathing report into retailer fraud was released Tuesday.

She said the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, responsible for regulating all legal gambling in B.C., "did not conduct any audits or investigations into BCLCs lottery retail network or into its complaints handling process."

The bottom line is that the branch essentially failed in its role as a regulator, said Carter. "Their actions were inadequate."

Similar cases have been reported elsewhere in Canada.

In October 2006, a media investigation sounded alarm bells over the number of Ontario lottery retailers redeeming winning tickets. Five months later, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. chief Duncan Brown was fired.

Meanwhile, police in Halifax announced earlier this month that they will examine millions of dollars worth of questionable winnings by lottery retailers. The move came after an independent investigation showed large weaknesses in how the Atlantic Lottery Corp. protects customers from crooked retailers.

The board will now turn its focus to implementing B.C. Ombudsman Kim Carters recommendations and the Lotto Corp.s Player First program, he said.

An interim chief executive officer is expected to be named next week.

According to internal lottery documents, over the past six years, those who sell lottery tickets have won 4.4 per cent of all lottery prizes over $10,000 - a rate three to six times what would be expected given their share of the population. Retailer wins were more common for some games than others, with a high of 11.6 per cent for Keno.

The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, raised fears retailers might be stealing customers winning tickets, for example by falsely telling a customer their ticket was a loser.

B.C. Solicitor General John Les said he supported the decision to fire Poleschuk. He also suggested more heads could roll after the conclusion of an independent audit he ordered Tuesday into the Lotto Corp. and its government regulator, the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch.

"Were going to make sure that everybody who played a role . . . is held accountable," he said. "Lets expose everything. Lets let the sun shine in."

Even criminal charges are not out of the question if the auditor turns up specific evidence of fraud, said Les.

However, B.C. NDP Leader Carole James said its Les - whose ministry is responsible for both BCLC and the regulatory branch - who should go.

"Its the minister whos ultimately responsible," she said.

"And it doesnt appear that hes going to resign. So I think the premier should have the courage to fire him."

Poleschuk, whos been with BCLC since 1985 and who has been its CEO since 1999, was paid $442,667 last year.

John Fraser, a spokesman for the board, said the board has not yet decided on what, if any, severance Poleschuk will receive.

Ombudsman Carters scathing report into retailer fraud was released Tuesday.

She said the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, responsible for regulating all legal gambling in B.C., "did not conduct any audits or investigations into BCLCs lottery retail network or into its complaints handling process."

The bottom line is that the branch essentially failed in its role as a regulator, said Carter. "Their actions were inadequate."

Similar cases have been reported elsewhere in Canada.

In October 2006, a media investigation sounded alarm bells over the number of Ontario lottery retailers redeeming winning tickets. Five months later, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. chief Duncan Brown was fired.

Meanwhile, police in Halifax announced earlier this month that they will examine millions of dollars worth of questionable winnings by lottery retailers. The move came after an independent investigation showed large weaknesses in how the Atlantic Lottery Corp. protects customers from crooked retailers.

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