Lottery | The Canadian Encyclopedia



Lottery a centuries-old concept, is an arrangement for distributing prizes by lot, chance or mixed chance and skill.


Lottery a centuries-old concept, is an arrangement for distributing prizes by lot, chance or mixed chance and skill. Under the Criminal Code (s189) it is an indictable offence to conduct any of a number of activities related to "any proposal, scheme or plan for advancing, lending, giving, selling or in any way disposing of any property, by lots, cards, tickets, or any mode of chance whatever." A 1969 amendment (rewritten 1985) provides for exceptions. Section 190(1) of the code now permits provincial governments to conduct and manage lottery schemes; and permits provinces to license charitable or religious organizations, agricultural fairs and exhibitions, and persons at public places of amusement to conduct and manage lottery schemes.

Federal Government

Under s10 of the Olympic (1976) Act, passed in 1973, the Organizing Committee of the 1976 Olympic Games, a Québec corporation, was authorized to run a lottery scheme to raise money for the 1976 Olympic Games in Montréal and was allowed to sell tickets in any province where the government of that province agreed, provided that the proceeds were used to provide financial assistance for the Olympics and for the development of amateur sport in the participating provinces. In the 9 draws between 1973 and 1976, $230 million was raised for the Olympics, $25 million for the provinces and $190 million was awarded in prizes.

Loto-Canada Inc, a federal crown corporation, was established in 1976 to raise money through lotteries to help Québec pay for its Olympic deficit. This lottery was strongly opposed by the provinces which regarded lotteries as their exclusive field of operation. Under a 1979 agreement, Loto-Canada Inc was wound up by the federal government in return for the payment by the 10 provincial governments quarterly to the federal government of $6 million, adjusted according to the Consumer Price Index; 82.5% of the profit of Loto-Canada had gone to the Olympic debt, 12.5% to the provinces, and 5% to the federal government in support of programs in fitness and amateur sport, recreation, the arts and culture.

In 1983 the federal government passed the Athletic Contests and Events Pool Act and established the Canadian Sports Pool Corp, which has the power to conduct and manage virtually every type of lottery scheme in addition to sports pools. Charging that this constitutes a breach of the 1979 agreement with the provinces, in March 1984 the provinces started legal proceedings in the federal court.

A game called "Sports Select Baseball" was launched in May 1984, but was discontinued in September 1984 after substantial losses had been incurred. An agreement among the federal government and the provinces was reached in June 1985 whereby the federal government agreed to withdraw from the field of lotteries, to amend the Criminal Code and to remove all existing legislation authorizing it to conduct lotteries; the provinces agreed to continue their payments under the 1979 agreement and to pay an additional $100 million over a period of 3 years. In pursuance of the agreement, s190 of the Criminal Code was amended in December 1985 to remove the provision authorizing the federal government to conduct lotteries.

Provincial Governments

All the provinces and the 2 territories are involved in conducting and managing lotteries. BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba incorporated the Western Canada Lottery Foundation under the Canada Business Corporations Act in 1974. The name has since been changed to the Western Canada Lottery Corp, and BC is no longer involved. The Yukon and the NWT participate as associate members. Each province and territory operates its separate ticket-distribution system and makes separate provision for its share of the profits. Programs in recreation, amateur sport, culture, community service and health research are the principal beneficiaries. In the fiscal year 1985-86, the corporation distributed to its member provinces and territories over $122 million, some of which covered local expenses. In BC, since 1985, lotteries have been managed and conducted by the British Columbia Lottery Corp. In 1985-86, $104 million went to the BC government.

The Ontario Lottery Corp was established in 1975. The profits (about $320 million in 1985-86) accrue to the provincial treasurer of Ontario but are earmarked for a number of grant programs, which would not normally qualify for government assistance, for sports, fitness, recreation, culture, research in health and environment, hospital capital projects and social-service programs run by volunteers in the private sector.

In Québec the lottery authority is the Société des loteries et courses du Québec, better known as Loto-Québec. Constituted in 1969, it began operations in 1970. New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and PEI jointly incorporated the Atlantic Lottery Corp in 1976.

The Interprovincial Lottery Corporation, constituted in 1976, currently has as its shareholders the governments of the 10 provinces of Canada. It conducts 3 national lottery schemes: Loto 6/49, Super-Loto and the Provincial. These national lotteries are managed by the 5 provincial organizations within their respective territories.

In the 1985-86 fiscal year, despite the recession, lottery sales in Canada climbed nearly $2.7 billion. All lottery games are based on the same principle; it is details such as the price and prize structures, the frequency of the draw and the technology for choosing winners that change. Games are usually "passive," ie, players match a preprinted number on a ticket against a winning number; "active," ie, players choose their own numbers; or "instant," ie, prizes are awarded based on the matching of hidden numbers or symbols.