Canadian airlines waiting for clarity before changing policies on ticket gender options

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Canada’s largest airlines are awaiting details from the federal government before they follow their U.S. counterparts in allowing travellers to choose gender designations outside the traditional « male » and « female » check-in categories.

Major U.S. airlines said last week they will change their ticketing process so that passengers can identify themselves along non-binary lines.

That change comes after a pair of major trade groups — the International Air Transport Association and Airlines for America — approved updated standards to allow member airlines to offer two new gender options: « unspecified » or « unidentified. »

In 2017, Ottawa announced that travellers will at some point be able to specify their gender with an « X » on their passport, instead of « F » for female or « M » for male. » The website for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says the change is coming « soon. » Until then, passengers can request an « observation » on their passport that notes their sex should be marked as « X, » the site states.

The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Air Canada, WestJet Airlines Ltd. and other companies, tells The Canadian Press that members are « awaiting developments and details » on the plan before altering their check-in systems.

U.S.-based airlines American, Delta and United confirmed Friday that they are in the process of updating their booking tools to add a similar option, implementing it in the next several weeks. They are making the check-in change despite resistance to non-binary passport options from the State Department.

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Brother, sister from Fort Qu’Appelle, Sask. win $1 million with lottery ticket

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Saskatchewan Lotteries says Fort Qu’Appelle siblings won $1 million on the Jan. 11 Western Max draw.

Michele Hahn and her brother Gerhard Hahn plan to share the winnings with family.


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“We both decided a long time ago that if we ever won the lottery, a lot of people would benefit from the win,” Gerhard said in a press release.

“It’s really nice that we’re able to make things easier for everyone.”


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Michele bought the winning ticket at the Pharmasave on Broadway Street in Fort Qu’Appelle.

The Hahn siblings’ lucky numbers were 2, 25, 34, 36, 37, 46, and 49.

Fort Qu’Appelle is around 60 kilometres northeast of Regina.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Ontario’s cannabis lottery will have just 25 winners. But is it a smart approach, or a golden ticket to nowhere?

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Combining at least two vices, aspiring pot merchants will enter a lottery Friday that will clear the way for a lucky 25 to open the province’s first cannabis stores in April.

The lottery, which will grant the winners first dibs at applying to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario for recreational cannabis retail licences, has likely attracted thousands of entrants, industry experts say.

A display of products at a store in Denver. In Ontario, a lottery will grant 25 winners first dibs at applying to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario for recreational cannabis retail licences.
A display of products at a store in Denver. In Ontario, a lottery will grant 25 winners first dibs at applying to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario for recreational cannabis retail licences.  (Dustin Bradford / TNS file photo)

On Friday, the names of the winning people or companies will be drawn, says Ray Khanert, senior communications adviser with the commission. “And they will have five business days to commence their application process.”

Of the 25 winners, five will be able to open stores in Toronto, while only two will be serving the entire expanse of northern Ontario.

Khanert stresses the lottery — which began accepting entrants at 12:01 a.m. Monday — will not grant licences, but the mere right to seek one. And he says winners must subsequently prove to the commission they’ve made serious financial and planning commitments to their enterprises before they’ll be allowed to open a store — with a firm April 1 target.

Among other things, they must have obtained a $50,000 line of credit and committed to a non-refundable $6,000 licence application fee.

On top of this licence fee there’s a $4,000 charge, also non-refundable, for a retail store authorization application — which would set the location of their shop. But Khanert says many lottery winners may hold off on this until after Jan. 22, the last date Ontario municipalities can opt out of hosting cannabis stores.

Merchants who fail to open on time will face fines of $12,500 on day one and the same amount April 15. If still shuttered on May 1, they’ll be docked $25,000 — the fine money being drawn from the required line of credit.

Betty Konc was one of many who took part in the Port Colborne's open house on whether it should allow the sale of cannabis at retail stores within city limits. The deadline to opt out of bricks-and-mortar stores is Jan. 22.
Betty Konc was one of many who took part in the Port Colborne’s open house on whether it should allow the sale of cannabis at retail stores within city limits. The deadline to opt out of bricks-and-mortar stores is Jan. 22.  (James Culic/Metroland)

Khanert says the commission will deploy a large team to help any lottery winners who run into trouble, for example in securing the credit line. “This is all about doors opening in April.”

People convicted of some cannabis-related charges or members or supporters of criminal organizations are ineligible for retail licences.

A short waiting list of runners-up will be published alongside the winner’s roll, and they’ll be tapped to step in if any of the top 25 can’t meet licensing obligations, Khanert says.

Read More:

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Toronto council opts in on pot shops just as Ontario limits number to 25 because of supply shortage

But David Phillips, cannabis czar under the province’s former Liberal government, says he doubts any winners — no matter their industry or retail backgrounds — will be able to open by April 1.

“It’s a mountain too steep and too high for just about everybody,” says Phillips, who was acting head of the Ontario Cannabis Store under the former government. “Even the most prepared retail operators out there are really going to struggle to turn things around that quickly.”

Phillips, now a principal and general counsel with the public strategy firm Navigator Ltd., says the “golden ticket” winners will have to lease space, construct interiors, install security systems, buy inventory and hire and train staff — and the 10 weeks before April 1 will likely prove too short a time.

The software to run the lottery was developed specifically by the commission’s gaming laboratory, Khanert says. The lab “is quite expert in its field and in addition to that the fairness monitor KPMG (Canada) looked at it,” as well as another third party in the U.S.

Khanert says the commission did not keep a running tally of lottery entrants — who had until noon Wednesday to jump in — and will not publish results until the winners are revealed Friday evening or Saturday.

But an indication of the interest, he says, came Jan. 4 when about 3,000 people tuned in to the commission’s webinar the explaining the lottery.

Matei Olaru, CEO of the cannabis information and resource firm Lift & Co., says he’d assume entrants would run into the thousands, in large part because the stores are almost certain to be lucrative.

But Khanert says rules will prevent winners from making flips until the scheduled lottery period runs out Dec.18.

“Your selection is not transferable,” he says. “The name that is on the (lottery entry), whether that is an individual or a corporate entity, that must be the name that applies for the licence.”

A list of all entrants and where they placed in the lottery draw will also be published in the near future, Khanert says. This will be used to determine the order of later store openings until December, unless the province opens up the process beforehand, he says.

Lottery rules hold that companies and individuals — and any people or entities affiliated with them — are allowed only one entry in each of the five regions set up across the province. They can only win in one.

These include Toronto, allotted five stores; and the surrounding GTA regions, which have a total of six.

An East Region runs from Ottawa through Peterborough and cottage country (five stores); a West Region spreads out from Hamilton and Niagara, through to Lake Huron and up to Manitoulin (seven stores). Meanwhile, a North Region — which takes in the vast reaches from Nipissing over to Thunder Bay — will have a total of two.

The province had envisioned a free-for-all April opening, with any merchant who met licensing criteria able to open stores virtually anywhere. But an unexpected lack of product caused Premier Doug Ford’s government on Dec. 13 to drastically pare that back to 25 and introduce the lottery scheme.

The move was applauded by some industry players, scorned by others.

“The Ontario government was extraordinarily reckless,” says Darren Bondar, president and CEO of the cannabis store franchisor Inner Spirit Holdings. “This lottery process, where anybody and their dog can apply for $75 (the lottery entrance fee) is a complete farce,” says Bondar, whose company runs some 20 pot stores in Western Canada.

Bondar says the former, unlimited licensing rules lured companies such as his into planning and financial commitments. And the abrupt switch, he says, left his company holding about 30 superfluous leases across Ontario.

“It put a lot of companies in a very difficult position,” says Bondar, who has not decided whether to quit the leases or open cannabis accessory shops in the locations until the supply shortages end and licensing regulations are loosened.

But Omar Khan, vice-president of public affairs with Hill + Knowlton Strategies Canada, says the measured store rollout is justified given supply shortages and that it will help Ontario avoid the disastrous openings experienced in other provinces — where shops have gone bust due to insufficient wares.

“I think the government generally has moved in a cautious but appropriate direction here,” says Khan, whose company advises clients in the cannabis industry.

Nearly empty shelves greet customers at a Montreal cannabis store on Dec. 13, as supply shortages have posed a problem for retailers across Canada.
Nearly empty shelves greet customers at a Montreal cannabis store on Dec. 13, as supply shortages have posed a problem for retailers across Canada.  (Ryan Remiorz)

Although the lottery helped the government avoid any perception of favouritism, Khan says when supplies recover, the province should move away from strict adherence to to the list of all entrants.

But Toronto lawyer Matt Maurer says Ontario might have been better off opening stores with the understanding they may not have any cannabis to sell.

“I think that’s one model and I don’t see anything wrong with that,” says Maurer, who has a cannabis practice at Torkin Manes LLP. “Go ahead and open your stores, we can’t promise you anything, but as soon as the supply crunch is alleviated you’ll have the supplies.”

Maurer says this model would favour deep-pocketed businesses who could better weather supply shortages. He says large, experienced firms can more likely deal efficiently with the heavy regulatory burden on the stores.

“It’s one thing to encourage small business, it’s another thing to allow people who have had no business experience at all suddenly walk in and try to open these stores,” he says.

Olaru, the Lift CEO, says that the province’s go-slow strategy with the stores is appropriate and reflects the approach new cannabis users should take with the drug.

“If you think about what you hear about cannabis it’s start-low (in THC concentration) and go-slow with consumption,” he says.

“And perhaps ‘start low, go slow’ with cannabis retail is also a prudent approach.”

Joseph Hall is a Toronto-based reporter and feature writer. Reach him on email: gjhall@thestar.ca

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Unclaimed lottery ticket sold in Hamilton worth $10K – Hamilton

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Check your wallet, your purse and your dresser drawers: someone in Hamilton has an old lottery ticket worth about $10,000.

But here’s the catch: you only have two more weeks left to claim it.


READ MORE:
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According to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), the winning LOTTARIO ticket was sold in the city nearly a year ago on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018.

The winning numbers were 10 – 15 – 23 – 30 – 39 – 42 with bonus number 32.

Players have one year from the original draw date to claim their prize.


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That means the owner(s) of this ticket should fill in the back portion, sign it and contact the OLG Prize Centre at 20 Dundas St. W. in Toronto before 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 21 to claim their prize.

Information about this and other unclaimed tickets is available by visiting the Unclaimed Tickets page on OLG.ca.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Stoney Creek father wins $75K with instant lottery ticket – Hamilton

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A Stoney Creek father of four is celebrating a recent lottery win.


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Selvir Peckovic won a $75,000 top prize with Instant Reindeer Games.

He plans to use the money to buy his son a new vehicle and help his family.


READ MORE:
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The winning ticket was purchased at the Fortinos on Upper Centennial Parkway.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Stampeders hoping 3rd time’s a charm after booking ticket to Grey Cup

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The Calgary Stampeders have been here before.

The last two seasons have gone according to plan for the mighty Stamps until the championship game.

They were the heavy favourites two years ago against Ottawa only to lose to Henry Burris and the Redblacks in overtime.

They were heavy favourites last year against Toronto only to lose to Ricky Ray and the Argos in a nail-biter — who can forget that goal line fumble by the Stamps?

To say it has been repeat disappointments for the Stampeders is an understatement as they were just a few plays away from being back-to-back Grey Cup champions. 

How is it, then, that a team could find the composure to get back to the Grey Cup, after devastation the last two years?

Perhaps the motivation to right the wrongs of the past was enough to spur these Stamps onto Edmonton for another shot at glory.

Now quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and the Stamps are heading back to the Grey Cup in a rematch of the 2016 game Calgary lost to the Redblacks. It’s a chance at ultimate redemption.

Bo Levi Mitchell seals the victory

The 22-14 win on Sunday over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was somewhat underwhelming. At times it slowed to a defensive halt.

But with about six minutes left in the game and Calgary leading 14-11, Mitchell orchestrated a drive to put the game out of reach.

Mitchell wasn’t spectacular throughout the game, going 17 for 31 passing for 214 yards and three touchdowns. But with the game on the line he marched Calgary down the field with a seven-play 74-yard touchdown drive capped by a brilliant pass and catch to Eric Rogers in the end zone.

Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell lifts the trophy after defeating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL West final on Sunday night. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

That put Calgary up by 10 points with just a little more than three minutes left in the game, a deficit the Bombers could never overcome.

Many have speculated this could be Mitchell’s last game at McMahon Stadium as he may head south with NFL aspirations. If it was, it was vintage Mitchell — finding a way to win.

This now marks the fourth time Mitchell will enter the Grey Cup game as a starter. He won his first start, only to lose the last two. Now he’ll hope to lead Calgary to another championship.

‘Tired of seeing the Stampeders’

This is now the fourth time in the last five years the Stampeders are heading to the Grey Cup.

They won it all against Hamilton in 2014. But their last two meltdowns in the title game have been well-documented.

The West trophy presentation celebrations in the south end zone of McMahon Stadium after the game Sunday couldn’t have been more subdued and reserved — it was as if the Stampeders wanted no part of what seems to have become somewhat routine to them all. They want the big prize.

Calgary’s head coach Dave Dickenson could barely look at the trophy.

He quickly shuffled it along to his players before being asked to share a few words over the loud speakers inside the stadium.

« A lot of Canada is tired of seeing the Stampeders in the Grey Cup but tough luck, we’re bringing our team to Edmonton, » Dickenson said. « We have great fans and a great city. The city is looking for something like this. »

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We tested out Sinemia, Canada’s only movie ticket subscription service

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Every company dreams of being the next Netflix or Spotify, but it can be hard out there for an app.

Lured by the promise of monthly payments coming in forever, they may not realize how difficult it is to make the all-you-can-consume subscription model work. The perfect example: going to the theatre to catch a flick.

Moviepass is the cautionary tale here. Only available in the U.S., the company has popularized the idea of an all-you-can-watch plan for cinemagoers but has also showed how hard it is to actually execute.

Moviepass tried different plans, like a $99-a-month deal, which gained some traction and customers. Then a new executive took over and cut prices to just 10 bucks a month. Membership exploded, as did the company’s debt — because Moviepass still paid the full price of every customer’s ticket to theatres. Users started facing resistance from several theatre chains, and restrictions on what movies they could watch and when. The company continues to struggle, spun out last month for potential sale by its parent company.

While all this was happening, Sinemia, which originated in Turkey but now is headquartered in Los Angeles, was offering a similar product, but it has tried to keep a more sustainable path. It mostly stuck to tiered plans, like $17.99 for two movies a month. Like Moviepass, Sinemia is on the hook to theatres for the full price of the ticket.

In September, Sinemia launched a $30 all-you-can-watch plan, with some limitations. (If you want weekday screenings only, it’s $23.99 per month.)

I decided to test drive the service to see how it works, how easy it is to use and how much moviegoers can actually save. Turns out there are some hidden costs and some kinks in the system that make it unnecessarily complicated. We’ll get to that.

Sinemia’s Classic Plan allows customers to watch one 2D movie per day — no IMAX, 3D or 4DX screenings, but Ultra AVX makes the cut.

It costs $30 a month if you pay annually, but if you sign up for a monthly pass you pay a one-time membership fee of $30. Being afraid of commitment, I chose the second option. As soon as I did, I got an email that said I needed to wait for customer service to start my “cardless activation,” which could take one to two weeks. But if I really wanted to start watching movies immediately, I could pay an additional $10 to expedite the process. It felt like I was being nickeled and dimed. It wouldn’t be the only time.

So, lesson one: don’t expect to see movies right away. I decided to wait for activation. And as I did, I did the math. With a typical movie costing about $13, I needed to see five movies that first month to get my money back. I would make sure I got my money’s worth. Or at least that was the plan.

By the time two weeks rolled around, I hadn’t heard anything from Sinemia and sent in a support ticket. On Day 15, my account was activated.

The next day, I went to see a matinee of First Man at the Alliance Cinemas in the Beaches. This is when I really learned how convoluted the Sinemia process can be. Despite the app having images and info about films and theatres, you can’t actually use it to buy a ticket. First you have to find the screening that you want. Then you should find the theatre website where you can purchase tickets (cineplex.com for example), as you will need that shortly.

Open up the Sinemia app and find the “Planning” tab to buy an Advanced Ticket. You pick the theatre and time of the film, but not the actual movie. Within a moment or two, the company generates a one-time-use credit card number, which you then can use on the theatre’s website to buy the ticket.

Once at the theatre, you need to open the app again and check in, to prove you actually went and didn’t, say, pass along the ticket to a friend. If you don’t do this, Sinemia warns it could charge you for the full price of the ticket.

If all that doesn’t sound so bad, know there are hiccups along the way. First, because of the cardless feature — Canadians don’t yet have a card option — the app charges a $1.80 processing fee for every transaction. So on top of the $30-a-month fee and the one-time membership fee, you pay another $1.80 for each movie you see. That means I need to see seven movies in the first month to wind up ahead.

As well, the credit card number generated is from a MasterCard, which uses an American zip-code. It wasn’t accepted by the Movietickets.com site that Alliance uses for ticket sales. I was getting frustrated, but then I plugged in my Canadian postal code and it worked.

Later on in the week, when I caught a Mission: Impossible — Fallout screening at Scotiabank Theatre, I tried my Canadian postal code trick on Cineplex.com and it didn’t work, but using the American zip-code did. Who needs TimePlay when using Sinemia is like playing a skill-testing game before you even get into the theatre?

Clunky as it is, the payment solution works for all Canadian theatres — in Toronto that includes TIFF Bell Lightbox, the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema and repertory cinemas — as long as there is a way to pre-purchase the ticket online. And thanks to that payment system, you can use and still collect loyalty points and perks from the theatres, such as Cineplex’s Scene program.

But the cost structure — and the unexpected service charge — bothered me.

I called up Rifat Oguz, the CEO and founder of Sinemia, to talk about how confusing the system can be for users.

“Yes, that is true. It can be,” Oguz admits, adding that the processing fee was necessary “to maintain the service.”

“That’s also changing with the new card system that will be coming soon,” he adds.

“Look, other movie subscriptions services are limiting show times and keep limiting what you can see. We’re not going to do that and, to maintain the same service level, that’s why we have the fee.”

Oguz says the company is constantly tinkering — a cheaper subscription tier was just added for weekday movie-going — and clearly is trying to find ways to make money.

Recently, Sinemia announced it will help other companies develop and build their own subscription services. Oguz thinks the most value comes from the tiered and family plans, which often let users pick any kind of viewing experience, including IMAX and 3D.

But it’s hard not to think that’s Sinemia best option for making money is if enough customers sign up and then don’t use it. That way, the company earns the subscription fees but doesn’t have to cover the ticket prices. Oguz doesn’t dispute that but says the hope is to get a large enough audience that money can be made in other ways, through partnerships with restaurants, cinemas and even taxi apps, and through marketing, to help theatres push films or encourage customers to come during low-traffic times, such as weekday matinees.

“We are charging the subscription for the movie payment, but we want everyone to use it for other things as well, the other parts of the movie-going experience,” Oguz says.

“Canada is right now the second biggest market (for Sinemia) and we didn’t really market there, so it was all word of mouth and our referral program worked.”

Sinemia has no deals in place with the theatres. That means it can work with everyone but, in a country like Canada where one chain dominates, there is probably an opportunity to partner and create a more seamless experience.

At this point, though, Sinemia is on its own — and it will likely face direct competition from the biggest fish in the Canadian theatre business.

“We have no relationship with Sinemia so I cannot speak to their operations here in Canada or elsewhere,” says Sarah Van Lange, director of communications for Cineplex. “That said, we share the concerns widely held across the industry that the business model of these third-party ticketing services is unsustainable and ultimately will create a negative experience for movie lovers in our theatres.”

Would Cineplex consider its own subscription model?

“We are always looking at new ticketing options for guests,” Van Lange says.

She points to a Summer Movie Pass program Cineplex has run for the past two summers, which allowed Scene members to buy five or eight tickets at a reduced price. It has also launched a “Scene Gold” pilot program in Edmonton, which has even greater benefits, including a priority concession line, exclusive screenings and ticket upgrades, for a fee of $6.99 per month.

It’s not an all-you-can-watch plan yet and, if that’s what you want, Sinemia right now is the only Canadian option.

But do you really need one? Now that I’ve figured out how Sinemia works, the bigger issue is finding enough 2D movies that I actually want to see, and the time to go and see them. That’s a problem that even the best movie subscription service can’t solve.

Raju Mudhar is a Toronto-based reporter covering popular culture at the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @rajumudhar

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Winning $60M Lotto Max ticket sold in Edmonton – Edmonton

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If you bought a Lotto Max ticket in Edmonton for this week’s draw, check your ticket.

The winning $60-million ticket for Friday’s draw was sold somewhere in Alberta’s capital city, according to the Western Canadian Lottery Corporation.

There was just one ticket that matched all seven numbers.

The unofficial winning numbers for the draw on Friday, Oct. 27 were: 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 20, 30 and bonus 45.


READ MORE:
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A whopping 27 Max Millions prizes were also won this week.

Three tickets with six matching numbers and the bonus were sold across Canada — one each in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. Each ticket is worth just over $500,000.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Montrealer finds forgotten lottery ticket worth $1.75M in an old jacket

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A Montreal man was cleaning out his wardrobe and readying some clothes for donation when he found a forgotten lottery ticket hidden in an old jacket — a ticket worth $1.75 million. 

Gregorio De Santis hadn’t planned on cleaning out the wardrobe, but said his sister encouraged him to get the job done.

Thinking he might have won a few bucks, De Santis decided to see if the Lotto 6/49 ticket, dated Dec. 6, 2017, was worth anything.

When the lottery ticket was validated, he at first thought he had won $1,750 — a pretty exciting prize for anybody.

But, as it turns out, the prize was worth 1,000 times that.

De Santis said his heart almost stopped when he realized he was suddenly a millionaire. He credits the unexpected win to his sister. He was still in shock during his visit to Loto-Québec on Friday to collect his cheque.

« I would never have looked in that wardrobe without her, » he said.

De Santis wants to organize his retirement plan and take some time to think, he said.  As a hockey fan, he said he will likely go see more games with his nephew.

The jackpot on Dec. 6, 2017 was actually $7 million. It was divided into four parts.

According to Loto-Québec’s website, the claim period is one year from the draw date printed on the ticket or, for scratch tickets, one year from the product launch date.

In this case, the winning ticket was just two months shy of expiring.

With files from Radio Canada and La Presse Canadienne

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