Jackpot not first for Bell Canada co-workers
January 05, 2011
Bell Canada should prepare for a flood of applications to its Scarborough call centre — it may be the luckiest workplace in the world.
Four of the 19 co-workers who won a $50 million Lotto Max draw on Monday were part of a group of Bell employees who won $1 million with Encore in 2007.
The odds of winning both jackpots is 1 in 280,633,528,000,000 (that's trillion).
But celebrations were put on hold Tuesday when additional claimants came forward to say they, too, deserved a cut of the historic payout — the largest ever single-ticket win in the province. The money is being withheld as the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. investigates.
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The original group of 19 claimants were individually interviewed by investigators from the OLG's Office of Player Protection on Wednesday.
The group's members were counting on each collecting $2.6 million.
But the OLG said the interviews were simply the next step in claiming the money.
“Any prize over $10,000 goes through a claims review process,” said spokeswoman Sarah Kiriliuk.
Since there is a large group of claimants, the validation process will take longer than usual, she said.
After freely speaking to media earlier this week, the claimants, who formed their lottery pool only a month ago, are now refusing to comment — brushing past reporters on their way up to OLG's Toronto offices Wednesday morning.
Some, however, celebrated on Facebook.
Annette Anderson, whose profile lists Bell Canada as her employer, received many offers of congratulations on Monday. Her husband, Don, updated his status on Monday to “OH HAPPY DAYS!!!” and later explained: “Annette was once [sic] of the 19 who won the $50 million. So that amounts to 2.6 million each :D :D :D :D”
On Wednesday one friend expressed disbelief that others are “trying to jump in” on the lotto win.
“No kidding,” Don wrote. “But this is just so open and shut.”
He said he and his wife are “blue-in-the-face” over the media attention and the fact that some people “are trying to stick they're (sic) smelly hands on the jackpot. They won't succeed.”
OLG would not disclose the names of the claimants, but pool leader and buyer of the lucky ticket Natalie Damianidis showed CTV a checkmarked list of the 19 members she says paid to be part of the draw.
Rumours swirled Wednesday at the claimants' call centre at Brimley and Ellesmere Rds. Several workers said the winners quit en masse Monday, while others said the extra claimants were jilted lovers and ex-husbands. There was talk of dueling office lottery pools, and speculation the winning group may have split from a larger one after a dispute.
Kiriliuk wouldn't confirm the number of additional claimants other than to say there is “more than one.” They will be interviewed over the next few days, she said.
“As the week goes on we'll be able to update you on further advancements in this case.”
But it could be much longer before the money is paid out.
All of the original claimants were asked to demonstrate ownership of the ticket, said Don Pister, another OLG spokesman, adding that typical questions included where the ticket was purchased, by whom and under what circumstances.
“In cases of group wins we would ask, ‘What is your understanding as to who is a member of this group and who is a winner of this prize?'“
Where there are disputes, the OLG tries to reach an agreement among all claimants. When an agreement can't be reached, the OLG awards the prize to a court, as it did in 2008 when a group of Powco Steel employees in Barrie disputed the rightful claimants of a $24.5 million lottery prize.
Last month, nearly three years after the draw, Slawomir Kowalewski was awarded an undisclosed settlement following an OPP probe.
The jackpot for Friday's Lotto Max is an estimated $23 million.
With files from Dan Robson and Amy Dempsey
Double lotto winners
April, 2007, Manitoba: Phyllis Thomas won her second $1 million prize in two years the same way she won her first — by buying a $5 Set For Life Scratch ‘N Win lottery ticket. She became a millionaire the first time on March 18, 2005.
June 2007, Mississauga: Jadwiga and Rudy Taylor of Mississauga won a $20 million Lotto 6/49 prize — their half of the June 13 draw. The Taylors had also picked up a $1 million prize in 1999 with a quick pick ticket.
Nov. 2007, Ontario: Robert Hong won a $15 million Lotto 6/49 prize. In April, Hong and a friend won 6/49’s second prize — they split the $340,500 winnings.
Feb. 2000, Toronto: Doug Russell won $1 million with an Ontario Instant Millions millennium ticket. Three months earlier, he shared a 6/49 lottery jackpot of $73,316 with nine co-workers at Intria-HP.
Compiled by the Toronto Star Library