VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - An admitted gambling addict claims the British Columbia Lottery and two casino companies let her gamble away hundreds of thousands of dollars after she signed a voluntary self-exclusion program for problem gamblers.
Joyce Ross claims in B.C. Supreme Court that she got hooked on gambling after visiting one of the defendants' casinos for the first time in 1999. Named as defendants along with the government-run lottery are Orangeville Raceway and Gateway Casinos.
By 2004, Ross was gambling away as much $1,000 a day, leading her down a road to "financial ruin," according to the complaint.
"As of 2005, the plaintiff's problem with gambling developed to such a degree that she borrowed significant sums of money from friends and relatives to continue gambling, had reached the maximum limits on her credit cards, and was using money to gamble which she needed to maintain her living expenses," the complaint states.
In 2007, Ross signed up for defendants' voluntary self-exclusion program, effectively banning herself for 3 years from the province's casinos under threat of criminal charges and fines of up to $5,000, under the British Columbia Gaming Control Act.
"The plaintiff signed the voluntary self-exclusion form to obtain a psychological benefit, specifically, to prevent her from acting on her compulsive urge to gamble," the complaint states. "She believed that she was done with gambling. The plaintiff had a feeling of hope that she would not continue to court financial ruin through gambling."
But after 2 weeks she was back at it, entering casinos where security personnel knew her, but did nothing to stop her, she says. Since entering the self-exclusion program, Ross claims she lost more than $330,000, most of it at defendants' Fraser Downs and Cascades Casinos.
Gambling in Canada has been illegal since the 1880s, and can be conducted only under "narrow exemptions" to the country's criminal code, but gambling involving people in voluntary self-exclusion programs is illegal.
By continuing to accept money from the plaintiff through gambling, after her self-exclusion, the defendants were acting in violation of federal criminal law, provincial statutory law, and their fiduciary duty to the plaintiff," the complaint states.
Ross seeks restitution of her post-exclusion losses, and damages for breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
She is represented by James A. Hanson with Hanson Wirsig Matheos.