The BC Lottery Corporation paid Roberto Luongo $160,000 last year to endorse its gambling website and play in poker tournaments, according to financial documents released by the Crown company.

The BCLC would not speak to the matter on Tuesday, but issued an email statement defending the use of celebrities and sports figures to promote its brand.

“This approach can be more effective than simply buying commercial time. It provides BCLC with an opportunity to… leverage relationships with our players by providing our customers with an opportunity to interact in a meaningful way with a well-known sports celebrity.”

The agreement with Luongo was paid out of the BCLC’s annual marketing budget.

According to the documents, the company spent a total of $31.5 million on advertising, marketing and promotions in the fiscal year ending in March 2012.

NDP gaming critic Spencer Chandra Herbert questioned whether the Luongo sponsorship, and the BCLC’s massive overall advertising budget were good uses of money for a Crown corporation.

“That’s a fair chunk of change when you look at the priorities that we can’t fund in British Columbia,” Chandra Herbert said.

“[Luongo] is a poker player anyway... would there have been a way to get his support at a cheaper price?”

Requests for comment from Luongo were not returned by Tuesday afternoon.

The Vancouver Canuck made headlines over the summer when it was revealed the BCLC had also paid the millionaire goalie’s $10,000 entry fee into the World Series of Poker main event in Las Vegas, plus travel expenses.

He finished 634th out of 6,598 players in the July tournament, winning $19,277.

According to reports, Luongo was allowed to keep the money he won.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Shannon Paterson