TORONTO — Lineups formed at retailers across the country on Friday as patrons hoped to cash in on the largest lottery jackpot in Canadian history, Ontario’s gaming authority said.
The prize in Friday night’s nationwide Lotto Max draw stood at $70 million, a figure the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation said is the highest ever awarded in Canada. The draw was also to feature at least 10 smaller prizes valued at $1 million a piece.
Dita Kuhtey, a spokeswoman for the lottery corporation, said the traditional sales bump retailers experience when jackpots exceed $50 million appears to be even more pronounced this time as Canadians hope to carve out a slice of the historically large pie.
“There was a steady lineup all day, probably five to six or seven people long,” Kuhtey said of one kiosk in downtown Toronto. “I’ve heard from other retailers on our sales team that there have been some lineups.”
Kuhtey said the current pot has reached stratospheric levels because Lotto Max has not produced a winner since Nov. 26, 2019. Each time the prize goes unclaimed, the pot increases by $5 million, until reaching the $70 million cap, she said.
If no winner emerges after Friday’s draw, the same $70 million prize will be up for grabs again on Tuesday.
Kuhtey said it’s not yet possible to gauge sales figures for the draw, since historically the bulk of sales takes place in the hours before the results are unveiled. But she said sales in Ontario alone surged 29 per cent between last Friday, when a $60 million prize was up for grabs, to Tuesday when the pot reached $65 million.
“This is the first time we’re hitting that $70 million cap,” Kuhtey said, “Which is why it’s the biggest jackpot ever offered in Canadian history.”
Two major wins took place last year, when Lotto Max draws produced winners worth $65 million each. She said both prizes were claimed on single tickets, one purchased in Quebec and the other in western Canada.
Kuhtey said the spate of big paydays has come about in part due to changes to the draw, which began taking place twice a week as of last year. At that time, the operators also raised the jackpot limit from $60 to $70 million, she said.
Canada’s other national lottery, Lotto 6/49, has also produced at least one comparable winner. Kuhtey said an Ontario winner claimed that lottery’s largest ever pot of $64 million back in 2015.
Canadians have until 10:30 p.m. eastern time to purchase tickets for the Friday Lotto Max draw. The draw follows right after.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 3, 2020.
Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press