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Gambling addicts can have jackpots: judge

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

BCLC has been told to return jackpots won by people in its exclusion program. (FILE PHOTO)

BCLC has been told to return jackpots won by people in its exclusion program. (FILE PHOTO)

The B.C. Supreme Court has decided that casino jackpots withheld because gamblers signed onto a voluntary exclusion list must be paid out — as long as the winnings were obtained before June 3, 2010.

According to a decision published Thursday, the Gaming Control Act was amended in 2010 — but that was more than a year after gamblers were already having their jackpots withheld under “Jackpot Entitlement Rules” that the court decided were improperly enacted.

Paul Bennett, a lawyer representing Hamidreza Haghdust and Michael Lee, who both had their winnings withheld, said he had hoped the court would rule withholding jackpots invalid regardless of the time period.

“It’s a partial win,” he said on Thursday. “Essentially, (the plaintiffs) were saying the lottery corporation had no right to withhold the winnings as a penalty — and they’re taking both the losings and the winnings.”

Bennett said he’s still considering whether to appeal, as the decision means that two-thirds of $1.5 million believed to have been withheld since April 2009 would not be returned.

His two plaintiffs can now expect to get back approximately $58,000, while another $20,000, which was won after June 2010, remains forfeit.

The B.C. Lottery Corporation said in a statement that withheld jackpots during the time period will be returned.

“BCLC will be working with plantiff’s counsel to ensure those jackpots are returned to those who are entitled to them,” BCLC said.

“The jackpot disentitlement rule is intended (as) a deterrent for those who have voluntarily self-excluded ... BCLC will continue to enforce this section of the act and remains committed to continuous improvement of our voluntary self-exclusion program.”

Bennett added that depending on whether there are appeals, his firm would start reaching out to gamblers who lost winnings between April 2009 and June 2010.


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