THE SWEEPS

YOU'RE BUYING A DREAM-AND NOT MUCH ELSEWHEN YOU BET ON

JON RUDDY April 1 1967

THE SWEEPS

YOU'RE BUYING A DREAM-AND NOT MUCH ELSEWHEN YOU BET ON

JON RUDDY April 1 1967

THE SWEEPS

YOU'RE BUYING A DREAM-AND NOT MUCH ELSEWHEN YOU BET ON

JON RUDDY

AS FOR THE ODDS, they are pretty bad. Sergeant of Detectives John Wilson of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Department figures they are just about as lousy as the odds in favor of drawing a royal flush in poker: about one in 1,200,000, he says.

But the several million Canadians who buy Irish Sweepstakes tickets three times a year don’t care about that. They are not buying a scrap of paper. Like the consumers of all getrich-quick schemes, they are buying a dream. In this case, a lovely, lingering dream of the Sweeps’ top prize money of $140,000, tax-free. One hundred and forty thousand dollars! That is still enough to change a man’s life overnight. That is enough to ... to tell old Hinkley at the plant where to put his clip-board, to buy a T-bird and a chicken farm and a river of champagne, to feel on the back every night the private glory of raw-silk pyjamas and in the stomach every morning a bright golden glow of digestive distress.

The Irish Sweepstakes is the oldest, the biggest and probably the best bet — as bad bets go — of several dozen professionally organized lotteries that Canadians bet on. Lotteries are still illegal here. Under Section 179 of the Criminal Code both sellers and buyers of lottery tickets are liable to a two-year prison sentence. But there is no minimum sentence and the buyers are hardly ever prosecuted; the sellers, when caught, usually get off with a light fine.

With the Sweepstakes it’s a case of the police trying, not very hard or effectively, to enforce an unpopular law. A Vancouver police official admits privately that / continued on page 59

continued on page 59

THE SWEEPS continued from page 27

For a winner, a punch and a threat

local cops “don’t go out and actively look for tickets.” An Edmonton Morality Squad officer says the public "knocks us for doing our job. The present situation is ludicrous. You can't enforce a law half-heartedly.” What the police want are stiffer penalties — especially the imposition of a minimum sentence — or new legislation to legalize lotteries.

Meanwhile, they have been breaking up smaller, fly-by-night operations — with good cause. A few years ago, for example, an outfit called Dolo Star peddled tickets on a horse race at Richelieu, near Montreal. After the race, a man who held a ticket worth $800 had a burly caller at his door. "Got the ticket?” He produced it. “Gimme.” And the burly caller tore it up, punched the lucky winner in the nose and told him that if the cops were summoned he’d be back to break his neck.

But there is no strong-arm stuff connected with the Irish Sweepstakes. Such crudities as evasion of payment would be unthinkable in a national institution and a public charity. For that is the image of the Sweeps, carefully nurtured, and the buyers of tickets, if they think at all about where their money is going, think it is going to pay for the medical care of the poor of Ireland, and mtlybe of a dear little old lady, and her with arthritis, bed-ridden in a Dublin hospital.

"There’s a sales hook for you,”

says a Montreal cop. “Greed and selfrighteousness.”

Although the avowed purpose of the Irish Sweepstakes is charity, and the name of the firm that runs it is Hospitals’ Trust (1940) Ltd., the Sweeps is charitable in about the same sense as the Holy Roman Empire was holy. To begin with. Hospitals’ Trust is a private company run for profit. During the past 37 years it has grossed an estimated 1.2 billion dollars, of which perhaps $140 million has gone to the hospitals of Ireland. That is a small fraction of the firm’s total receipts and probably a lot less than it would have had to pay in corporate income taxes, if it paid corporate income taxes. Hospitals’ Trust was set up, through the political influence of one of its founders, by an act of Irish parliament. The only tax it pays is something called Stamp Duty, amounting to a niggardly 6.4 percent of net proceeds. The bulk of its profits has been plowed into private industrial enterprises, investment companies, even stud farms. Its few shareholders are among the richest, most powerful men in Ireland.

Since the sale of Sweepstakes tickets is illegal in all countries but Ireland, distributors abroad match the Mounties in discretion. And discretion is expensive. Toronto police estimate that 30 percent of the purchase price of each ticket never gets out of Canada. Montreal police put the figure at 50 percent or higher. The money

THE SWEEPS continued

So you got a receipt —but is it official, or from Dublin?

goes in cuts to agents, sub-agents, sub-sub-agents and so on from the primary importer to old whal's-hisname, the guy who sells a book or two around the office. The amount of money per book that reaches Hospitals’ Trust in Ireland varies in inverse proportion to the length of the distributive chain. Police in Montreal have discovered that the last seller alone often pockets $14 for each book of 24 tickets he sells. There are additional off-the-top cuts. The tickets are supposed to cost one pound sterling, roughly three dollars. They don’t, though. The last distributor sells his tickets for whatever he can get, often $3.50, and pockets the markup, or some of it. So it goes.

When you buy a Sweepstakes ticket in Canada, the fate of your stub or counterfoil is in the hands of the gods. These are temporal gods. How do you know that your stub is really going to get into the revolving drum in Dublin from which the winning tickets are pulled? How do you know that the “official receipt” you get from Dublin is really official, or from Dublin? What can you do if you don’t get a receipt at all?

Lieutenant Steve Olynyk of the Montreal Police Department’s Social Security Squad recalls a 1956 seizure of 20,()00 lottery stubs of the ArmyNavy-Air Force Veterans in Canada. The ticket buyers got their receipts despite the seizure. Says Olynyk, “I was talking to one guy who’d bought a ticket and he said, ‘My stub is in the drum. I got my official receipt.’

1 said, ‘Your stub is in the incinerator.’ ” Olynyk says the buyers of Irish Sw-eepstakes tickets sometimes get their receipts three days later — hardly time enough for the receipts to be sent from Ireland. He says it’s common practice for a distributor to pocket all the money and not send off his stubs. “What can anybody do?” he asks.

Counterfeit tickets and receipts are another hazard. In 1956 police seized a bundle of them coming into Canada from Chicago. Since then none has been discovered—but that doesn't mean there aren’t any around, says Olynyk.

Trying to find a big Canadian distributor of Sweepstakes tickets is like hunting for a leprechaun. In Toronto, a man named Charles, supposedly a local kingpin, explains in a peat-bog brogue that he is just a little fish who has a few tickets sent to him by friends and relatives in the old country. Another suspected agent, Jack, says he sells all his tickets himself. He says his tickets are delivered to him by a mysterious figure in a black Cadillac. He doesn't know who the man is. Jack says. Other sources mention the man in the Cadillac. He is known, suitably enough, as Mr. X, and supposedly heads the Toronto distributive setup.

Sergeant of Detectives Wilson, the Toronto Morality Squad officer, figures there are five top distributors in the area. “These would be full-time professionals,” he says, “working with numerous subs. They’d pass the tickets on down the line. There is no violence

or pressure involved. It’s a very quiet, efficient behind-the-scenes operation.” In one doubtful investigative effort. Toronto police wrote to Hospitals’ Trust requesting information about the distribution of tickets in Canada. “We didn't get any information,” says Wilson.

In Canada, British Columbians

probably buy the most tickets per capita, and BC is probably second to Ontario in total sales. Police believe there is one primary distributor in the province who gets his tickets by mail from distributors in Toronto. Montreal and Hamilton, Ont., and passes them on to three sub-agents covering different areas of the province. One

BC agent, who says he distributes 300 books of tickets three times a year, figures that British Columbians buy 13,000 books of Sweepstakes tickets on every race. That’s 936,000 tickets a year and, at $3.50 each, an annual investment of $3.276,000.

No reliable estimate is available of total Canadian sales, but the scope of the national operation was disclosed in December 1965 when Montreal police seized more than $17 million worth of tickets in one fell swoop.

THE SWEEPS continued

73 percent of Canadians want lotteries

Can the law work?

Bound for 17 top distributors across Canada, the tickets had been shipped to Montreal in numbered crates with a bill of lading describing the contents as table jellies. Police discovered that shipping clerks were actively supporting the operation, and a Canadian crown prosecutor hinted that customs officials were involved. Mrs. Francis

Kelly, an Irish-born housewife, and her son-in-law'. Anthony Sullivan, paid fines totalling $35,000 after pleading guilty to lottery charges. A few other distributors in other parts of Canada were fined, but a national crackdown never materialized and the flow of tickets into Canada continued. Police have noticed that, since the

big raid, more tickets are being mailed into the country by the book, often on a hit-or-miss basis.

Still, the national distributive operation continues. So do periodic arrests — and characteristically light sentences. “These guys are so cocky.” says Lieutenant Steve Olvnvk. in

Montreal. “I took $180.000 worth of

tickets from one of them here, and he got a $1.000 fine. While I was in his house his dog made a mess on the carpet, and this guy said, 'lf I had your job I'd have to send it to the cleaners, but don't worry about it — I'll just roll it up and throw it away.' " The problem, of course, is public attitudes. Polls have indicated that 73 percent of Canadians favor legalized lotteries. Numerous provincial and municipal politicians have spoken up on behalf of government-run sweepstakes. most recently in Manitoba, where Attorney-General Stewart Mc, Lean last year called for an amendment to the Criminal Code. But no new legislation is in sight, and conservative elements have expressed an implacable opposition to all forms of legalized gambling in Canada. In 1964. for example, the United Church urged the Ontario Committee on Taxation to hold out against pressure to i introduce lotteries, on the grounds that legalized gambling would “invite criminal elements into our country.” According to police, known criminal elements have not associated themselves with government-backed lotteries operating in Canada. (The biggest, apart from the Irish Sweepstakes, is the Jamaican Sweepstakes: Canadians ¡ also manage to buy lottery tickets from Malta. France. India. Italy, West Germany. Australia and New Zealand.) It is to the smaller, usually local lotteries — some established, some as ephemeral as flying saucers — that unsavory citizens seem drawn. Most of them are penny-ante con men and fast-buckaneers. In Edmonton last fall, city police smashed a Grey Cup lottery operating under the hearttugging (and. it turned out. quite misleading) title of The Canadian Children's Aid Society. “It was a phony.” says Edmonton Morality Inspector W. H. Stewart, “and one of the distributors we fined had a criminal record.“ A few years ago an outfit redundantly called The Canadian Sweepstakes of Canada operated a lottery on a horserace in New York State, disbanded, and failed to pay off the holders of its winning tickets.

There are dozens of professionally run baseball, hockey and numbers lotteries in Canada, many of them less than eager to distribute winnings. In Montreal, for example, there was a hockey lottery called Regal that prom-

THE SWEEPS continued

“Hockey lotteries are the sweetest racket you could find”

ised ,$1,000 to the holder of a ticket bearing the exact time and period of the last goal in a Stanley Cup final, and printed an unknown number of tickets, including some seized by police, bearing the nonexistent time 19.95 of the first period.

“These hockey lotteries are the sweetest racket you could ever find,”

Olynyk says. “There is no guaranteed winner. Often they won’t even print tickets covering the last 30 seconds of a game, when the winning goal is often scored. And the prizes are really small. They’ll sell $10,000 worth of tickets and pay out less than $2,000 in prizes. You have to be nuts to go into these things. We’ve pretty well

driven them right out of Montreal. But they still sell a lot of them in the Maritimes.”

But Halifax Police Chief Verdun Mitchell says such lotteries — on hockey, baseball and numbers — virtually disappeared following a city police and RCMP raid on 10 lottery establishments last June. Thousands

of tickets were seized and five distributors and operators fined $500 to $1,500. “Our boys are continuing to watch, but we’re not seeing many tickets at present,” Mitchell says. He is afraid, though, that operations have merely been swept under the carpet for a while and will reappear. Lotteries have been big business in the Maritimes. “I would think that a year or two ago in Halifax they ranked as the largest source of illegal funds,” Mitchell says.

It is clear that, almost anywhere in Canada, anyone who wants to buy a lottery ticket can do so without much trouble. In Edmonton, says a downtown office worker, “at Grey Cup time you could hardly turn around without being asked to buy a pool ticket. And Edmontonians don’t have the slightest trouble locating Irish Sweepstakes tickets.” In Windsor, Morality Squad Inspector Gilbert Robitaille says, “While we certainly don’t condone policemen buying them. I’m not so naïve as to think it doesn’t go on.” Robitaille adds, “If they do, they should be charged. We must divorce ourselves from public opinion in these matters and enforce the law as it stands.” Early in February, Robitaille thwarted the biggest Sweepstakes operation ever discovered in Windsor. Twenty-five homes were raided and 11 sellers charged after a routine investigation uncovered a list of local agents.

But the law, as it stands, will never be enforced effectively. The best that Canadians can expect is that police will break up the worst of the lotteries. Such as Montreal’s Goldstake Realties, Inc., which in 1962 was peddling one-dollar tickets with a top prize of $4,000 and an interesting added inducement: every time you bought a ticket you got a one-foot-by100-foot strip of land in the Parish of Dundee, 50 miles southwest of Montreal. All you had to do, on the face of it, was buy 50 tickets — the lottery operated monthly — to own a 50-by100-foot building lot in the poshsounding Parish of Dundee.

Trouble was, as Montreal police discovered, (a) the lottery was a phony — nobody won any money; (b) under a fine-print clause on the tickets, the land could be obtained only if you shelled out 50 consecutive times — one miss and you started all over again; and (c) the “land” lay 10 feet under the water of Lake St. Francis. ★