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BCLC backs down after demanding Abbotsford woman return part of slot jackpot winnings

Cathryn Ward is shown on her birthday, on Aug. 14. Two days before, she was having an early celebration at Chances Playtime Gaming in Abbotsford when she won a large jackpot. - Photo submitted
Cathryn Ward is shown on her birthday, on Aug. 14. Two days before, she was having an early celebration at Chances Playtime Gaming in Abbotsford when she won a large jackpot.
— image credit: Photo submitted

A woman who won a large jackpot at the Abbotsford gaming centre on Aug. 12 was ordered two days later to return more than $3,000 that the casino overpaid her.

But Cathryn Ward had already spent the money on bills and fought the B.C. Lottery Commission (BCLC) over its demands, saying the overpaid funds were not her fault.

On Wednesday (Aug. 20), the BCLC stated that it agreed with Ward’s position and closed its investigation of the matter, with no further action to be taken.

However, Ward said the corporation’s actions ruined the day and the win for her.

“I am in disbelief that the lottery could do such a thing and, quite frankly, I have never heard of such a thing – a corporation trying to take the winnings back they award you,” she said.

Ward, who works up north and sporadically lives in Abbotsford, had gone to Chances Playtime Gaming – located on Peardonville Road – with two friends for an early celebration of her birthday.

She was playing the “Mustang” slot machine when she hit the jackpot, indicating she had won $13,149.25, but a different “cash explosion” sign showed the win was $10,000.

After discussions among casino staff and confirmation of the amount from the BCLC head office in Kamloops, Ward’s win was determined to be the larger amount.

Ward said she and her two friends even questioned the amount to double-check whether it was correct.

The next day, she cleared up several bills, including $5,000 she owed her aunt, $1,300 for a housekeeper to look after her uncle and $2,400 in dental work.

She also sent money to her children, grandchildren and two nieces.

A day later, Ward said she received a call from an investigator with the BCLC, saying a mistake has been made and if she did not pay back the funds, she could face criminal charges.

Ward explained that she no longer had the money. She said she received a total of six calls about the matter. Three were from the BCLC and three were from a police officer with the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB), she said.

“I am sick, sick, sick about the whole dang mess. Who else do they do this to and, more importantly, why?” Ward told the Abbotsford News on Aug. 15 before the matter had been cleared up.

Nicole Lewis, in media relations with BCLC, confirmed the circumstances, and Ward was mistakenly overpaid $3,149.44.

“It is standard procedure to request repayment of overpaid funds in rare instances where a discrepancy occurs,” she said.

Lewis said the incident was then further investigated by the BCLC and the GPEB, and it was determined that the error was due to “a miscommunication between BCLC and the site.”

“As the patron was not at fault, the investigations are now closed with no further action to be taken. We appreciate the cooperation of the patron in this matter and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused,” Lewis stated in an email on Aug. 20.

Lewis said BCLC will work with Chances Abbotsford to ensure all staff are “adequately trained to avoid any errors in the future.”

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