'Betting on Lotto numbers deprives good causes of National Lottery funding'

By Shane Dempsey – Head of Corporate Affairs, National Lottery

Charities, community groups, individuals and projects throughout Ireland are of critical importance to Ireland’s economic and social fabric. They play a vital role in supporting and developing health and wellbeing, Irish language, sport, culture, heritage and youth services throughout the country, delivering services where the Government cannot. Thousands of these community groups and projects manifest Irish people’s huge empathy and propensity to give every day.

One of the challenges these charitable groups face is unsurprisingly raising funds which has been further exacerbated by the current cost of living crisis and the long-tail effect of Covid-19. The National Lottery is critically important to the charity sector.

A report in 2021 from Benefacts showed that the National Lottery accounted for 34 per cent of all charitable giving in Ireland. In fact, one of the reasons why the National Lottery was established in 1987 by the Government was to generate funding for good causes.

Since then, the Lottery has generated over €6 billion for good causes across every community in Ireland.

Shane Dempsey – Head of Corporate Affairs, National Lottery Photo by Mac Innes Photography

The National Lottery’s ability to generate maximum funding for good causes is being undermined by betting companies who offer bets on National Lottery draws. Not long after its establishment, betting companies started offering customers the opportunity to place a bet on the outcome of the National Lottery draw. The financial benefit of this practice was significant, attracting new customers, into high street bookmakers. Today, it’s estimated that lottery betting is worth €570 million to the gambling industry in Ireland alone.

If this practice was banned, research indicates that the National Lottery would generate at least €228 million - meaning good causes fund would receive approximately €63 million more each year! This could help hundreds more community groups, charities, and sports clubs across Ireland every year.

A key figure to highlight is that 90 per cent of all National Lottery sales revenue goes back to the community - (58 per cent in prizes, 27 per cent to Good Causes, five per cent in retail commission and 10 per cent to the operation, administration and profit of the National Lottery).

Some 27 per cent of sales from National Lottery games goes back to good causes – which has delivered substantial funding for groups and organisations all over the country to help improve their services over the years.

Legislation has been proposed in the Seanad to ban the practice of Lottery Betting. The bill has been put forward by Senators Barry Ward, Emer Currie and Micheál Carrigy and it appears to have received cross party support. No other EU country allows this practice because it damages lotteries’ ability to support good causes; it is illegal. Ironically, UK punters are banned from betting on the Irish lottery – not our own citizens.

The rationale behind the Bill is not just monetary. Preventing player harm from problem gambling is a key reason for the practice being banned across Europe. The National Lottery is heavily regulated. The gambling industry is not.

National Lottery products have, as per regulation, inbuilt player protection measures including mandatory age verification, mandatory spend limits, an online curfew, regulator-approved products only, no incentives offered to spend more, a dedicated advertising code and the refusal of large customer balances online.

No such controls exist for lottery betting in bookmakers, and this is exposing people to unregulated gambling products. This ‘lead-in’ effect, where people are introduced to gambling on the back of the National Lottery’s brand is harmful.

On this basis, and so more charities can benefit from Good Causes We are calling for this practice to be ended. While this may cause concern for bookmakers, they can devise new products to meet customers’ demands and survive. A charity deprived of good causes funding, might not.