Man who left partner after buying winning lotto ticket to get half of prize

An Ontario man who left his common-law partner after buying a winning lottery ticket has been awarded half the roughly $6 million jackpot while the rest of the prize remains in legal limbo.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. has ruled on the dispute, saying it confirmed Maurice Thibeault purchased the ticket in the Sept. 20 draw and will pay him half the winnings around the end of the month.

The agency says it will hold on to the other half for 45 days, during which Thibeault and his ex-girlfriend Denise Robertson, who argues she's owed half the winnings, can still settle the matter privately or decide to take part in the OLG's arbitration process.

After that, however, it says the money will be turned over to the courts to rule on.

Thibeault's lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment. Robertson's lawyer, meanwhile, says she is weighing her next steps.

Steve Pickard says his client feels the OLG's decision puts her in an unfair position because she'll have to rely on her own resources to fight for the other half of the winnings while Thibeault will have access to millions of dollars from his payout.

Thibeault and Robertson lived together in Chatham, Ont., for a few years and bought lottery tickets together every week, each taking turns to make the purchase, Pickard said. They always shared their winnings, he said.

When it was announced that one of the winning tickets had been bought in their city, Robertson asked Thibeault if they had won, which he allegedly denied, her lawyer said.

A few days later, Robertson came home from work to find that Thibeault had moved out and taken all his things, Pickard said. She then learned from mutual friends that Thibeault had won the lottery and quit his job, the lawyer said.

But before Thibeault could collect the money, Robertson and her lawyers obtained an injunction barring the OLG from doling out the prize. The agency sent a letter to Robertson last week saying it had completed its investigation and would pay Thibeault around Dec. 30.

Pickard said they could seek another injunction as they figure out how to proceed.

In a statement, Robertson suggested she hoped to resolve the dispute out of court.

"I keep hoping that Maurice will simply do the right thing and acknowledge our agreement to share, knowing that he would have expected me to share with him if I had been the one to go to the store that day," she said.