And so another storied piece of Canadiana bites the dust. The skill-testing question, that uniquely Canadian contribution to the fun and excitement that is a lottery game of chance legal contest, has been exposed as discrimination:

Sandra Poitras finally has the GPS navigation device she won earlier this year in Tim Hortons’ Roll Up the Rim to Win contest.

But it took several angry phone calls to get it after she got the skill-testing question wrong twice and was denied her prize.

Poitras’s husband Roger purchased the winning cup on March 17 and asked her to claim the prize.

But Poitras, who has a learning disability, gave the wrong answer to the skill-testing math question contest winners are required by law to answer.

Tim Hortons asked her to resubmit her prize claim but she again answered the question incorrectly.
The doughnut chain told her its policy is to only give customers a second chance to answer the skill-testing question but did eventually gave Poitras the prize.

The skill-testing question, in case you’re wondering, was: 8 x 6 – 5 + 9.

So: because Ms Poitras has a learning disability, it would be unfair – or at any rate, a public relations disaster – for Tim Horton’s to deny her the prize. This presents a dilemma, common to these sorts of cases, that I have yet to see addressed: what if she didn’t have a learning disability? What if she was just dumb? Or what if she was intelligent in most respects, but bad at math? What if she was, as it were, unskilled? Wouldn’t that also be discrimination?

SUPER BONUS PRIZE QUESTION: And since Timmie’s gave her the prize notwithstanding her inability to pass the test, does that not imply that they are, in fact, running a lottery?

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  1. Andrew At the bottom of the article it says she was asked the same skill testing question twice and gave the same answer both times. I think that puts her in the dumb category.

    As an aside, I have longed wondered why we have skill testing questions in the first place. What are they for, other than to weed out the ‘unskilled’.

  2. If you click on the link, you’ll see: it’s to support the pretence that this is not a lottery, since private, for-profit lotteries are illegal.

  3. huh. I never knew that. Everyday is a school day, as my mom says.

  4. Does this overturn the 1984 ruling of what constitutes a valid skill testing question? Also I think there was a case involving a skill testing question and order of operations. So this adds a new twist to the skill testing question. Will this ruling force parliament to enact legislation given that the decision overturns essentially every court ruling on games of chance and portions of the criminal code.

  5. I can’t let this pass….

    Seriously, WTF?

    OK I’m done.

  6. Seriously, we can’t have just anyone winning Roll Up The Rim contests. It would send the wrong signal to children – telling them that math doesn’t matter. She should be sued and made to return her prize.

  7. The more I think about this, the more questions I have. If she can’t answer a simple math question, what makes her think she’s qualified to use a GPS unit (or for that matter, drive)?

    I can readily envision that one day soon, she’ll be driving down a highway, Timmies in one hand, using the GPS with the other and well, uhh… BANG, SMASH, SCREEEECH!

  8. 1. It would appear, since Tims gave the prize away, that they are indeed running a lottery, in which case have they not broken the law?

    2. What was the original intent of this law? If it was to prevent contest promotions like Roll Up the Rim and the like, which every company engages in, it clearly hasn’t worked. If it was to prevent large private lottery draws from competing with state run 649 and Super 7, then it seems to have worked. If this is the case, why don’t we just re-write the law to allow contests like Roll Up the Rim and not allow profit based six number draws for $25 million.

    3. And most importantly.

    From the last section of the article:
    “There were a total of 5,000 GPS devices available to be won across Canada and the United States in this year’s Roll Up the Rim to Win contest.”

    Canada AND THE UNITED STATES?! Which means Americans have the opportunity to win Roll Up the Rim prizes without crossing the border – what’s more, without the bureaucratic obligation to answer the skill testing question?! Surely THAT is the national outrage.

  9. Someone who sends in the same wrong answer twice, and who could not punch the numbers into a calculator, or computer, or ask a friend, could not conceivably be smart enough to operate a GPS navigation device.

  10. And if they are running a lottery, shouldn’t the person who bought the cup be the one claiming the prize?

  11. Oh but Matthew, look at the silver lining. “Roll up the Rim” may be the only thing which Americans have to pay tax on that we don’t.

  12. Beating the odds and winning a prize is suppose to be exciting. Geez, how many cups of coffee does a winner have to drink?

    Then, to have to answer a skilled testing question because of a legal technically geared to getting around not being a lottery. Shouldn’t the winner be cut some slack on answering an inane question?

  13. Quite right. After all, governments get quite morally indignant about gambling when they aren’t getting their fair share of the booty.

    This is likely my old Prairie Baptist grandfather’s influence coming out in me, but I regard the explosion of government run gambling enterprises to be completely shameful. Yes, I am well aware that no one is forcing people to buy lottery tickets or to go to a government run casino, but there is something deeply disturbing about the fact that the state is sanctioning and running such an inherently dishonest enterprise.

    As with most government enterprises, the return is worse than it is with privately run companies. You get better odds, for example, with your illegal local sports bookie than you do with the provincial lottery sports betting. The local bookie simply keeps a 10% “vig”, and adjusts the odds to try to keep his book as balanced as possible. (When the odds for a football game move mid-week, it isn’t because they know any more about the game than you do. They are just trying to keep their bets balanced.) Proline and Sports Action, OTOH, are a simply a big, giant 50/50 draw — 50% goes back in prizes, and 50% goes to government, and to feed the massive and still growing bureaucracies that run the provincial lottery systems.

    You would have thought that the insider winning scandals in Ontario and BC might have sparked the curiousity of the media into further examining the business practices of government run lotteries, but apparently not.

  14. Hmm, lessee. 8 x 6 – 5 + 9. Three times eight is 24, right? So six times eight would be 24 times two. 48. Good so far. Minus five. Eight minus five leaves three, so 48 minus five must be 43. Let me check so far. 8 x 6 = 48, minus 5 is 43. Ok. Then plus nine. 43 plus nine. 43 plus 10 would be 53, so 43 plus nine would be 53 minus one. That’s 52. So the answer is 52!

  15. You mean, this is all about knowing your math lessons. Not about winning a contest!

  16. I wonder why the articles about this topic usually never mention that the skill testing question is mandated by the Criminal Code Sections 197 to 206.

    Tim Hortons is just following the rules the government tells them to follow.

    instead of painting Tim’s as the bad guy, lobby the federal gov’t to update their antiquated gaming laws

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