VANCOUVER - A B.C. judge says two problem gamblers who enrolled in a program that barred them from government-run casinos can go ahead with a class-action lawsuit to try to get their winnings back.

Michael Lee and Hamidreza Haghdust argue the British Columbia Lottery Corporation "wrongfully withheld" approximately $42,000 and $35,000 they won, respectively, while participating in the voluntary self-exclusion program.

Under the program, problem gamblers can register so they're barred from the corporation's facilities, and the corporation also refuses to pay out any winnings to participants.

The pair claim they put out considerable amount of money to win the jackpots and asked the B.C. Supreme Court to consolidate their lawsuits, arguing the corporation's decision to withhold jackpots was "unconscionable and a breach of contract."

While he didn't rule on the substance of the lawsuits, Justice John Savage certified the class-action lawsuit, saying there are common issues in the lawsuits and there is an identifiable class of two or more persons.

A date has yet to be set for the next court appearance, but Savage has asked the plaintiffs to develop a case-management plan to move the action forward.