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Retailers refusing to sell or redeem lottery tickets over COVID-19 contamination fears

With many lottery retailers taking necessary COVID-19 precautionary measures and temporarily closing ticket sales, it is becoming increasingly difficult for many to find tickets.

As a result of the ongoing pandemic and social distancing, Kevin van Egdom, communications director with the Western Canada Lottery Corp., said they’re seeing a decline in sales.

That is the case with Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw, which has an estimated $70-million jackpot, for example, and would attract casual lottery players who want to test their luck.

“Lotteries are a bit of an impulse purchase,” van Egdom said. “We’re in a time right now where most people aren’t making those impulse purchases — you aren’t in a store or making a decision with people you work with to all throw a few dollars in to play the lottery.

“Based on other $70-million jackpots, we’re certainly seeing a decrease from what we would normally expect from that.”

Van Egdom said it is their prerogative to make the decision to continue selling or not.

“Some of them are making the decision to suspend their sales,” he said. “Some of that is because stores have closed completely, so obviously they’re not selling tickets.

“In other cases, some stores and chains have made the decision that although they’re staying open, they’ve decided to suspend selling lottery.

“Certainly, we respect their decision to make those choices. In a lot of cases, it’s pharmacies and grocery stores that are deciding to stay open as a step to protect their staff and maintain distancing between customers in their stores.”

Some stores, for example, the Rexall Pharmacy Group Ltd., are still continuing to sell lottery tickets and process instant scratch tickets, but they are no longer accepting customer-filled lottery forms and redemptions.

Van Egdom said there are other alternatives to purchasing tickets from a retail location.

The lottery corporation offers a Play By Subscription program, which automatically enters a player into selected draws, automatically checks the player’s numbers and mails or direct deposits any winnings. The program can run anywhere from three months up to a year.

“The subscription is definitely an option where you can play without leaving your house or without going to a store to buy a ticket or to check it,” van Egdom said. “We’re seeing lots more people calling in and going to the website to take advantage of that.”

According to the lottery corporation, all lottery prize offices are closed to the public but prizes are able to be claimed at a participating lottery retailer or by mail.

If any winners are symptomatic of COVID-19 or at greater risk of infection, they are directing them to the mail-in claim method, regardless of the prize amount.

“All of our prize offices throughout our region are closed to the public,” van Egdom said. “We are still processing prizes, absolutely. But the main way people get them to us is by mail.

“We’re glad to see people doing the right thing and following the measures we’ve implemented. I think it’s a real testament to people taking the health of their families and communities very seriously.”