Store owner unlucky with lotteries

Don't piss off the Yukon Lottery Commission, or it'll make your life hell, says Ken Achtymichuk. The owner of Heather's Snack Haven is taking the commission to court after his lottery licence was suddenly revoked on May 25th.

Don’t piss off the Yukon Lottery Commission, or it’ll make your life hell, says Ken Achtymichuk.

The owner of Heather’s Snack Haven is taking the commission to court after his lottery licence was suddenly revoked on May 25th.

In the process, Achtymichuk may lose his corner store.

“They are going to lawyer me to death,” he said.

“This is a message to all retailers—if you stand up to them, watch out.”

It all started with Achtymichuk’s Keno monitor.

On April 2, 2008, Achtymichuk received a letter from the Lotteries Commission. There was new criteria—if a business had a Keno monitor, it needed a seating capacity of 15 or more.

Achtymichuk added some extra chairs to his seating area, and it was business as usual.

The letter even assured him, “The commission is confident your location meets the newly established criteria.”

More than a year later, Achtymichuk got another letter.

The commission was reviewing lottery sales and had decided the Keno game, via video, would be removed from all Yukon locations as of June 1.

“Keno was about 50 per cent of my lottery sales,” said Achtymichuk, sitting in his Porter Creek store on Thursday with old Keno tickets still lying on the table.

“People came in here from Faro, Ross River, Dawson and Watson Lake.”

It’s like bingo, he said.

“You’d get people with three numbers calling for the fourth, and they’d have coffee and eat.

“It was a nice community atmosphere in here.”

All retailers displaying Keno monitors received a formal letter on May 5, informing them about the Keno termination, but Achtymichuk got an extra letter, delivered a week earlier.

“It has been confirmed that your location has seating for six,” stated the April 28th letter.

“Lotteries Yukon will make arrangements for the removal of the monitor in the next two weeks.”

It meant Achtymichuk would lose his monitor almost two months earlier than the other Yukon Keno retailers.

The letter was signed by lotteries board chair Melanie Graham.

“But I met the capacity,” said Achtymichuk.

“And why was it a board member and not administration issuing the letter?”

Achtymichuk called up the commission and requested a meeting.

Instead, on May 13th, Graham hand delivered another letter.

The lottery commission had changed its mind.

“To accommodate concerns voiced by Mr. Ken Achtymichuk, the (Keno) monitor will be removed at the same time as the other monitors that will be removed from the Yukon network,” stated the new letter.

But that didn’t solve Achtymichuk’s bigger problem—the removal of a major source of income in the Keno monitor.

In March, Achtymichuk sold $17,000 in Keno alone.

It was outselling the 649 tickets, he said.

The Lottery Commission claimed “removing the Keno wouldn’t affect our sales—but it killed them,” said Achtymichuk.

He threatened court action.

Two days later, another letter arrived.

“Please be advised that your lottery retail agreement will be terminated effective May 25, 2009,” it said.

It was a “power trip,” said Achtymichuk.

“It went from challenging the commission about a policy to fighting for my licence.”

Achtymichuk hired lawyer Graham Lang.

“Unilateral and sudden revocation is not a fair, nor a responsible way to run a licensing regime,” said a June 19th letter from Lang to Brad Cathers, the minister responsible for the lottery commission.

“In operating monopolies such as the lottery, the government must ensure that individuals are not treated arbitrarily.”

The letter revoking Achtymichuk’s licence was delivered just before a long weekend.

It left him four days to hire a lawyer.

Lang asked for an extension, but the commission denied the request.

A couple days later, government lawyers also requested an extension.

Achtymichuk and his lawyer OK’d it.

“We’ve got a little more integrity than they do,” he said.

The hearing was supposed to take place on June 29, but was recently pushed ahead another month.

In the interim, Achtymichuk can’t contact the commission.

It makes getting lottery supplies tricky.

“I had to call my lawyer to get ticket paper (from the commission),” he said.

“And that probably cost me $200.”

Achtymichuk figures he’s already spent upwards of $5,000 on lawyer and accountant fees.

Achtymichuk, a longtime Yukoner, used to be in construction, but his neck was badly injured in 1999.

“This is a new trade,” he said, showing off his store and its impressive row of slushy machines, with exotic flavours like cranberry/pomegranate.

The Snack Haven opened in December 2006.

“And before we opened, I made sure we got a lottery licence,” he said.

Last year, on June 25th, Achtymichuk’s sales were $1,078.

Exactly one year later, with his Keno monitor gone, sales were $361 on June 25th.

Achtymichuk doesn’t dare think about the future of his business.

“I have to delay any future decisions I make about the store,” he said.

“The government says it supports ma-and-pa businesses, but we’re a ma-and-pa business.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at