Judge Orders BCLC to Pay Casino Winners

The BCLC (British Columbia Lottery Corporation) was ordered by a judge to pay out substantial casino winnings to a pair of gamblers who had signed up for the BCLC’s voluntary self-exclusion program but still continued to regularly visit casinos managed by the BCLC. Michael Lee and Hamidreza Haghdust had been previously unsuccessful on collecting their jackpots worth $42.5k and $35k respectively due to BCLC’s policy that states that any difficult gamblers who register for the province’s self-exclusion program are prohibited from collecting any winnings earned at any BCLC casino.

BCLC had incorporated the somewhat ‘tough love’ approach as far back as April 2009. However, the province didn’t actually get around to changing the required laws until later in June 2010. Both of these men who filed a class action lawsuit against BCLC had actually won their winnings over the course of the 14 month timeframe. Last Thursday, BC Supreme Court Justice and ruling judge John Savage made the final decision that BCLC did not in fact have the legal authority or justification to lawfully withhold any jackpots that were earned during this period of time. The subsequent ruling left BCLC responsible for shelling out approximately $450k to impacted gamblers. However, any jackpots that were earned later than June 2010 will still remain uncollectable.

BCLC may indeed be able to recover at least a part of the monetary sums it inevitably owes the gamblers using the funds it’s trying to get back from former CEO of BCLC Michael Graydon. For anyone who remembers, Graydon suddenly resigned from his position earlier in the year in order to take on a job with a Paragon Gaming subsidiary, which is a private firm seeking to build a new casino in downtown Vancouver. Regardless of resigning before his contract was actually up, Graydon collected a substantial severance package worth more than $114k. Earlier in the week, an official internal audit found out that Graydon had violated moral standards by privately negotiating the terms and details of his new private sector gig long before he proposed and submitted his resignation.

Last Thursday, BCLC declared that it would be demanding Graydon to pay back as much as $55k of his ‘golden handshake’. On July 11, the corporation’s attorneys sent Graydon a letter asking that he pay back the total by Tuesday the 22. The Vancouver Sun states that the letter claims BCLC’s board would never have agreed to submit the money if they had previously received full disclosure of Graydon’s said activities. Reimbursement of the $55k will provide some measure of justice for money that was paid according to his partial representations.

To make matters worse, the findings of the audit indicates that the BC Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch is subsequently conducting a thorough investigation into whether or not Graydon is still adequately suitable to serve as a gaming official. BCLS’s letter to Graydon cautioned him not to engage in any interactions with BCLC. This includes any contact or communication with any BCLC staff until the regulators have completed their official review.

A member of the New Democratic Party, Shane Simpson, hinted that Graydon’s new bosses may likely demand that he pays up, pointing out that Paragon will need a healthy affiliation with BCLC if it in fact wants its Vancouver plans to materialize. Simpson wonders how Graydon can have any relationship at all with Paragon if he doesn’t step up and make things right. He also states that Graydon indeed has a heavy problem, but that it will only get worse if decides not to reimburse the money. Only time will tell how this will all play out in the end.

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