BCLC faces lawsuit from second problem gambler
A Vancouver Island man is suing the B.C. Lottery Corporation because the company denied him a $42,500 jackpot on the grounds he's a registered problem gambler although the BCLC has never stopped him from losing money.
At the time, Mike Lee was supposed to be barred from casinos entirely under the BCLC self-exclusion program, but his lawsuit contends that the company let him in and allowed him to gamble anyway.
"It's unconscionable to allow someone that has gambling issues to let them play, watch them put their money into a machine, and then disallow them when they win," said Lee's lawyer, Josh Weiszner.
"If they are going to allow him to play and lose, they should allow him to play and win."
BCLC refused to comment on the specifics of the case while the issue is before the court.
But the company did say it has the power to make rules that establish qualifications for who can win prizes.
It's the second lawsuit in less than two weeks that takes BCLC to task over lax enforcement of its self-exclusion program, which is meant to keep problem gamblers away from casinos.
A week ago, Joy Ross of Langley filed suit against BCLC for more than $300,000 -- the amount she says she lost because, even though she registered as a problem gambler, B.C. Lottery Corporation didn't stop her from gambling.
Addiction specialists say addiction to gambling is a real phenomenon. Because of the high amounts of money at stake, it can be as devastating to people's lives as crack or heroin addictions, according to experts.
The lawsuits come on the heels of a CTV News hidden camera investigation revealing that a registered problem gambler could walk into four different Lower Mainland casinos without being stopped.
According to Lee's lawsuit, he put himself on the self-exclusion list because he had a new family and didn't want to lose money gambling.
But court documents say he walked into the Cowichan Chances Casino on January 25, played the slots and was up about $300 when he hit the jackpot: $42,484.67.
"He was elated that he won and he went out to cash out, and at that point he was denied his winnings," said Weiszner.
Lee's lawyer claims the lottery corporation knew he was playing slot machines while excluded because he's won smaller jackpots on several occasions. It was only the large jackpot that got BCLC's attention.
"My client provided his ID. They clearly identified my client. They paid him his winnings and never asked him to leave," he said.
Weiszner says the system that protects problem gamblers has to change.
"If the B.C. Lottery Corporation is going to give the impression to people who need assistance that they're there to help, they should follow through with it," said Weiszner.
With a report from A Channel's Stephen Andrew and CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward