Teens find it easy to buy lotto tickets

The Ottawa Sun asked a 15-year-old boy to try to buy lottery tickets. Out of 10 places he tried, five sold tickets to him. It's illegal to sell lottery tickets to minors. (KELLY ROCHE/Ottawa Sun)
The Ottawa Sun asked a 15-year-old boy to try to buy lottery tickets. Out of 10 places he tried, five sold tickets to him. It’s illegal to sell lottery tickets to minors. (KELLY ROCHE/Ottawa Sun)

Children in Ontario are rolling the dice on their future by betting on card games and buying lottery tickets.

Close to 29,000 students in grades 7 to 12 have a gambling problem, according to a recent study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

And if you think it’s difficult for a teen to buy scratch cards, think again.

The Sun and a 15-year-old boy tested that theory out.

We gave him $20 and went to 10 authorized lottery dealers — grocery stores, gas stations, bargain stores, drug stores, convenience stores — some big, some small, all different chains.

Five out of 10 places sold scratch tickets to our 15-year-old.

Six of those places asked for ID, and he said he didn’t have it on him.

One still sold it to him anyway.

Two places asked how old he is. He said 19, and walked out with scratch tickets.

Three didn’t ask at all and just sold it to him.

Five refused to sell.

He spent a total of $16, handing over five scratch cards and $4 change.

Since Jan. 1, 2009, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation has received 34 reports of lottery vendors across the province selling to underage customers.

The Sun found five in one day.

In Ontario the legal age for playing the lottery is 18 so if you’re a minor, “you can get someone of age to get them for you,” said 18-year-old David Karam.

“They have them at every corner store and gas station.”

Asking someone to buy lottery tickets for you is usually the best bet, “unless they have fake I.D.s,” said 14-year old Maggie Paquette.

The OLG said allegations of selling tickets to minors are often hard to prove.

Four retailers were given 30-day suspensions — none of them were in Ottawa.

So where do teens get the money? They use their allowance or fund their new gambling habits with a part-time job.

“Eighty seven per cent of them report spending less than $50 a year, but 5% of them report spending $200 or more a year,” said Dr. Robert Mann, a senior scientist at CAMH and principal investigator on the study.

At Mac’s Milk on Baseline Road and Navaho Drive, Doug Stevenson is a clerk who has been conned by someone buying tickets for underage friends.

“I’ve seen it once and the next time they came in, I refused to serve them,” he said.

Stevenson said once customers are off store property, even if he sees them handing over lottery tickets there’s nothing he can do.

He said the lineup is usually out the door on Sundays, when 80% of his customers are college students betting on sports through PRO-LINE.

“A lot of kids come in,” he said. “No I.D., no ticket.”

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

http://www.ottawasun.com/news/ottawa/2010/11/29/16360321.html

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