Lawyer to file $700m class-action suit against Loto-Quebec


Quebec – A Quebec City lawyer who is a recovering gambling addict plans to file a class-action lawsuit worth nearly $700 million against Loto-Quebec in Quebec Superior Court in the coming week.


In his declaration signed Thursday, Jean Brochu will claim damages and base interest of $578.7 million, or $4,863 for each of the 119,000 claimants in the suit.


Specifically, Brochu evaluates the cost of a 30-day therapy session at $2,800, the cost of follow-up visits at $1,000, the loss of salary during treatment at $963, and various incidental costs at $100.


“Certain members of the group suffered damages that exceed the base total of $4,863,” Brochu wrote. “The total amount of excess damages and interest will not be known until individual suits are filed and proven by each individual eligible claimant.”


Brochu is also seeking $119 million in exemplary damages.


“That total corresponds to $1,000 per compulsive gambler,” Brochu wrote. “That total of $119 million could be placed in a trust for a foundation which would subsidize research, prevention and the treatment of gamblers addicted to using video lottery terminals (VLTs).”


Brochu says he will file his suit by Aug. 6.


He is a former municipal councillor who defrauded his professional association of about $50,000 to feed his gambling habit.


In his declaration, Brochu reiterates there are about 125,000 compulsive gamblers in Quebec, and that the problem affects thousands more people close to them. The Quebec government estimates the number of compulsive gamblers as 2.1 per cent of the population, but Brochu feels that figure is based on antiquated information.


He also mentions 71 compulsive UFA gamblers committed suicide between Jan. 1, 1999 and Dec. 31, 2001.


Brochu claims Loto-Quebec “failed to issue a warning of the risks and dangers associated” to the use of VLTs.


“A warning would have provoked, among VLT users, a healthy reaction of prudence and reserve,” Brochu wrote.


Authorized by Justice Roger Banford on May 6, the class-action suit can include “any person who, since June, 1993, became a compulsive gambler by using video lottery terminals that were put at their disposal and kept in clubs, bars and other public sites by Loto-Quebec.”


The lawsuit “will be vigorously contested” by Loto-Quebec, Yvan Bolduc, a lawyer for the provincial gaming agency, said in May.


Ivan Sack, publisher of Canadian Gaming News, said in May the case will be closely followed by other jurisdictions that sanction gambling.


There have been rumblings of similar lawsuits in North America and Australia, but Brochu’s action is believed to be the first anywhere, and certainly the first in North America, Sack said.


“It will be a pacesetter either way,” he said in May.


Brochu’s lawyers said in May they intend to call a number of politicians, including Premier Bernard Landry, as witnesses.