Ontarians may be unaware they are buying scratch tickets when all the top prizes for the game have already been won, the province’s auditor general has found.
In the auditor general’s report released last week, it was noted that from April 2018 to June 2022, around 88 per cent of all scratch tickets printed were sold, generating net sales of approximately $6.4 billion.
“We noted that OLG is not ensuring that Ontarians are aware of whether any top instant scratch ticket prizes are still available at the time of purchase of open packets of scratch tickets (a pack includes around 10 scratch tickets),” the report said.
Scratch tickets are given to retailers in packs of approximately 10.
“Previous consumer research conducted by OLG showed that a prize amount of $100,000 or greater was considered by the public to be a lifechanging amount, and that consumers were less likely to purchase instant scratch tickets once all top prizes had been claimed,” the report said.
In a statement sent to Global News, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) said games with top prizing of $100,000 or more are removed when top prizes are claimed, though games with prizes under $100,000 “may continue to sell through for a period of time, with full disclosure to customers on the remaining top prizes available.”
The OLG posts the number of remaining unclaimed prizes for instant games on its website (which is updated daily) and consumers are able to ask retailers for a list of unclaimed prizes. Consumers can also contact the OLG directly.
The corporation said the decision to remove a game is issued directly from the OLG to retailers.
The auditor general report said that the OLG has a process in place to have retailers remove remaining tickets once all top prizes for the game have been claimed, but said “there is nothing stopping retailers from continuing to sell open packets of scratch tickets.”
The auditor general said the OLG sends internal emails to trigger notifications and sends notifications to lottery terminals for three consecutive days to remind retailers to remove the tickets.
“In addition, OLG removes any advertising for that scratch ticket game and asks the manufacturer to collect the remaining tickets from retailers,” the report said.
“The manufacturer then reconciles the tickets returned to the main list and identifies variances before destroying the tickets. This reconciliation process can take up to six months.”
The report said consumers might be buying tickets not knowing there are not any major prizes left, though they may win other prizes which would still be honoured.
The auditor general recommended that the OLG implement a process to track scratch tickets “more closely by requiring bar codes that retailers must scan for inventory tracking purposes.”
The OLG should then disable bar codes for games once all the top prizes have been won to prevent remaining tickets from being sold, the report said.
In its statement, the OLG said its scratch ticket practices “are consistent” with other Canadian lottery jurisdictions.
“In fact, some of OLG’s INSTANT games are national games overseen by the Interprovincial Lottery Corporation which provides for harmonized INSTANT game design rules across Canada,” it said.
The OLG also provided a response to the auditor general in the AG report.
“OLG accepts the recommendation and will review current ticket deactivation practices to identify improvement opportunities. In the near term, our focus will be on increasing retailer education on the process,” the OLG said.
“This will be accomplished with the support of our retail sales network but also through enhanced communication. OLG will explore options and develop a business case to expand centralized inventory management including systematically managing single ticket activations.”
The organization said it will “ensure enforcement of retailer penalties” if they don’t comply with their obligation to remove scratch tickets when told.