07/29/2014 05:49 EDT | Updated 09/28/2014 05:59 EDT

Atlantic Lottery Corp. Retailers Won 165 Jackpots Last Year

Noel Hendrickson via Getty Images

Atlantic Lottery Corp. retailers and employees claimed what is likely a record 165 jackpots over $1,000 last year new figures show, with the group once again posting much higher win rates for big prizes than it did for small ones.

"Retailers and retail employees play our games differently than the general public," said Craig Ennis, an ALC spokesman, in an email to CBC News.  

"Retailers and retail employees play more often the average player and spend more when they do play."

According to the new figures, retailers and their employees won $20.6 million in big prizes during the last fiscal year ended in March, with the group's luck improving significantly as the value of jackpots increased. 

For example, the retailers won just 3.4 per cent of the 4,028 prizes awarded by ALC of between $1,000 and $10,000, but six per cent of the 464 prizes that were worth more than $10,000.

That's a 76 per cent better win rate for big prizes than small ones, a mysterious pattern that has shown itself in the retail group and defied explanation for years.

In 2012, ALC commissioned Jacques Allard, a statistician at the University of Moncton, and management consultants at KPMG to investigate why retailers won larger prizes more often than smaller ones. 

High win rate

Allard found retailers won prizes at 10 times the rate of the general public even with underreporting of smaller wins. Although he said he found no evidence of fraud or manipulation by retailers, he didn't rule it out and recommended ALC follow the issue closely.

More likely, Allard concluded the different win rates were probably a fiction caused by more intense scrutiny of the big wins by ALC with significant numbers of smaller wins by the retail group slipping by undetected.

With that, KPMG proposed several changes to improve the reporting of "non-arm's length" wins under $10,000, including tighter reporting requirements and significantly shrinking the number of people who counted as retail employees.

Still, two years later, the group continues to pile up wins of big prizes at a better rate than small prizes.

ALC now says it thinks retailers may be playing the lottery differently than the general public.

“This category of players have a preference for our regional games, such as Atlantic 49, Keno, Salsa Bingo, etc. than the general population," said Ennis

"Retailers and retail employee have a preference for Scratch’N Win products. And since 2011-12, there has been a 68 per cent increase in prizes over $10,000."

Although winning six per cent of the big jackpots over $10,000 awarded last year, some of those wins were significant, with retailers and their employees actually landing 33 per cent of the $61 million in those jackpots.

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