Pressure grows to ban betting on the Lotto 

Pressure grows to ban betting on the Lotto 

On an episode of Liveline this week, in the wake of 47 consecutive rollovers of the jackpot, Joe Duffy heard from a series of incredulous people who bet on the National Lottery regularly.

One man, who was just one number short of the jackpot, won just €516.

“I nearly fell off my chair, Joe,” he said, when he found out the amount.

Another caller rang in to say he was making big money by betting on the lottery — but not by buying a quick pick. He bets in the bookies instead. And he said he’d made tens of thousands of euros doing so.

While the so-called “unwinnable” National Lottery has been catapulted to prominence again, behind the scenes there is lobbying going on over a new law that would prevent you from betting on the National Lottery in the bookies.

In recent months, bookmakers have sought to lobby members of the Oireachtas not to support the bill, which would see them banned from accepting bets on the National Lottery.

Since the formation of the National Lottery in the 1980s, bookmakers in Ireland have taken bets on the outcome of the lottery draws, offering a different set of odds to the regular lotto.

The new bill is strongly supported by the operator of the National Lottery, which it says is needed to protect the funding it provides for good causes around the country.

However, bookmakers say prohibiting the placing of such bets excludes competition, results in a net loss to Revenue, and potentially puts jobs at risk. Bookmakers also say it would not have the “direct policy outcome of increasing the good causes fund”.

The price to buy an official ticket for the Lotto on Saturdays and Wednesdays, or the Euromillions on Tuesdays and Fridays, is fixed.

However, in bookmakers, the customer can choose how many numbers they want to bet on and their stake — this can be above or below the price of the fixed National Lottery tickets.

Bookmakers also offer better odds on the chance of some numbers appearing out of the Lotto draw than the National Lottery, with the exception of the main jackpot.

So, for example, anyone who matched three numbers in the National Lottery draw on November 20 would have won €9. The minimum ticket price is €4. Betting €1 on three numbers in the bookies would net you between €330 and €400 (if you include the bonus).

It must be emphasised that the chances of matching these numbers, given the amount of numbers actually in the draw, is very low in either case.

The ‘winnability’ of the Lotto has been highlighted frequently in recent weeks, as the jackpot has rolled over since June and, on the aforementioned Liveline show, callers were disappointed at the low return they were
getting for their numbers coming up.

The National Lottery has lobbied the Government in the past to change the law to prevent bookies from taking bets on the outcome of its draws. According to the private members bill tabled by Fine Gael senators, the bill seeks to outlaw the use by private operators of the National Lottery’s activities to profit or otherwise make further betting offers.

In other words, if the bill becomes law, you would no longer be able to go into a bookmaker and bet on certain numbers to come out in the next Lotto draw.

The National Lottery is run by Premier Lotteries Ireland, which was granted a 20-year licence by the Government in 2014 to run
the National Lottery. It is majority-owned by a Canadian investment firm, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

The licence to operate the National Lottery states that Premier Lotteries must allocate 65% of its gross revenue from gaming —  which is its total ticket sales minus prize money — to good causes each year.

The National Lottery says this roughly translates to 30c of every €1 worth of tickets sold going to good causes. The funding goes towards sectors including sport, heritage, arts and culture, and youth services.

Behind the scenes, both sides of the debate have tried to lobby policymakers in this area.

Flutter Entertainment, which runs Paddy Power in Ireland, sought a meeting with Fine Gael senator Barry Ward. Mr Ward was among the senators who have pushed the bill to ban betting on the Lotto in the bookies.

As well as calling Mr Ward, Premier Lotteries Ireland wrote to Michael McGrath, the public expenditure and reform minister, to seek support for the bill.

Mr Ward told the Irish Examiner that he decided to put forward the bill after discovering the mother of a friend of his liked to bet on the lottery in the bookmakers.

“I became aware she would deliberately go to the bookies rather than buy a National

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