Lottery tells professor to roll over

July 27, 2001

A Quebec government-run lottery has demanded that a Montreal professor retract statements it claims defames its reputation.

But the lawyer's letter demanding a retraction from Pierre P. Tremblay for statements he made to the press smacks of intimidation, his faculty association says.

Loto-Québec said Dr Tremblay's figures on the percentage of gambler's money taken by the provincial gaming corporation were false. It has threatened the Universite de Quebec a Montreal professor with legal action if he does not make the various media outlets that repeated his findings retract their reports.

Dr Tremblay, a political science professor who specialises in public finance, said he would not change the statements he made on television last month about the rates earned from gamblers who play the electronic machines of chance found in bars and casinos.

He accused the corporation of taking in more money than it admitted and than what was allowed by law. "Loto-Quebec sells dreams," he said, a difficult task if it could not guarantee a real chance to players.

The story made front-page news in Quebec City. But the corporation hit back with a lawyer's letter describing his statements on the rate of return as "false and erroneous, and made with malicious intent or are at least the result of gross negligence".

Dr Tremblay used figures from Loto-Québec's annual report to calculate the lottery's take from the machines at 23.3 per cent. The corporation countered that its machines gave back 8 per cent of the stake, compared with the 17 per cent allowed by law. Both figures could be correct, depending on how the rate of return is interpreted.

Dr Tremblay's faculty association said Loto-Québec was using intimidation to silence a dissenting voice. A spokesman for the UQAM professors' union said Dr Tremblay was only doing his job as a public finance critic and that Loto-Québec's actions were a serious attack on academic freedom.

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