Canadian Lotteries

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Before 1967, buying sweepstakes or lottery tickets in Canada was illegal. Thereafter, the Canadian government under newly elected Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau set about updating a number of obsolete laws and introduced legislation to give the country’s provinces and territories more control over their own jurisdictions. On December 23, 1969, Canada’s Criminal Code was amended to allow provincial governments to legally operate their own lottery systems.

Almost immediately, Loto-Québec was founded as a public corporation by the Québec government. Its primary mission was to enable the province “to oversee the activities surrounding games of skill and chance and to lessen organized crime’s control of these activities.” All profits earned under the corporation’s programmes would be returned into the community in the form of public services.

In this regard, Loto-Québec’s main duties and contributions to the government and the people of Québec are not financial, but rather social and environmental. The entity strives to maintain balance between its economic mission and social responsibility. In 1970, Inter-Loto was launched as the very first provincial lottery in Canada and it was soon copied by others.

Based in Winnipeg, Western Canada Lottery Corporation (WCLC) was created in May of 1974 as a non-profit joint venture between the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It was authorized “to manage, conduct and operate lottery and gaming-related activities as agent for its Members,” which also included three associates: the Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

In 1976, the Atlantic Lottery was founded on behalf of the governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island. Initially, just one game was offered, but operations soon grew to encompass traditional lottery games and eventually some of the newest Internet and social games available. Atlantic Lottery currently employs more than 600 workers and rewards some 90,000 big and small wins every day.

In the late 1970s, the Canadian federal government ran the “Olympic Lottery” for several years to help recoup the costs of hosting the 1976 Summer Olympics. This product later became known as Loto Canada, and it was offered in concert with the various provincial products. Its success was followed in 1982 by the introduction of Canada’s first “pick your own numbers” nationwide lottery, Lotto 6/49, which debuted on June 3 and still played throughout the country to this day.

Meanwhile, British Columbia, which had originally partnered with the WCLC to conduct lotteries, struck out on its own and formed the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) in 1985. A year later, Lotto BC, the first BC-only online game was launched. By 2009, BCLC created a nationwide sensation by releasing Lotto Max across the country. In just seven weeks, it set a record for the largest total prize money in Canadian history—C$99 million—with the C$50 million jackpot won by a Manitoba couple.

The youngest of Canada’s lottery operations is Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). It was inaugurated in April of 2000 as an Operational Enterprise Agency, created by the Government of Ontario by merging the former Ontario Casino Corporation and the Ontario Lottery Corporation.

Now, OLG and its affiliated companies employ more than 18,000 people, manage 24 gaming sites and sell lottery products at some 10,000 retail locations throughout the province. One of OLC’s original offerings was “Cash For Life,” the first lottery in the nation with a top prize in the form of annuity, giving players a chance to win C$1,000 a week for the rest of their lives.

Two enduring nationwide Canadian games are offered by all five of the provincial authorities. One is Lotto Max, which is available for sale across Canada with jackpots starting at C$10 million. Players choose seven numbers from 1 to 49 (or choose Quick Pick) and pay C$5 per play for three sets of numbers. The draws are held every Friday.

The other countrywide game is Lotto 6/49. It features a progressive jackpot that grows until it is won. Each play costs C$2 and up to ten draws can be played in advance. The draws are conducted every Wednesday and Saturday. To date, the biggest Lotto 6/49 prize ever won totaled $54.3 million. It was claimed by a group of oil and gas workers from Alberta in October of 2005.

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