Public Accounts Committee chairperson, Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley, has called for stricter regulation and controls of the National Lottery to ensure that ‘good causes’ receive a share of unclaimed prize money.
Between 2016 and 2021, the National Lottery operator diverted 98% of unclaimed prize money (€122m) towards its own marketing and advertising campaigns, with just 2% going towards topped-up prize money.
Teachta Stanley said:
“I am extremely concerned that such a significant percentage (98%) of unclaimed prize money has been diverted by the National Lottery towards its marketing and advertising campaigns when the licence stipulates that the operator must put the money towards topped-up prizes.
“The issue is that the licence permits the operator to also divert some of the money towards its own incremental marketing. The regulator confirmed that they have not raised this issue and the operator has taken complete advantage of this situation.
“I am frustrated by the lack of action by the regulator and the committee will be proposing to the Department that the licence is amended to ensure that ends.
“During the hearing, I proposed to the regulator that it be considered that any unclaimed prize money be donated towards ‘good causes’ if they are uncollected after 180 days, which is done in other countries. I feel it is wrong that 98% of unclaimed prize money goes towards marketing and advertising.
“Following much discussion with the regulator, I was also not convinced by the National Lottery’s advertisement claim that 90% of ticket sales ‘go back to the community’.
“In fact, the committee found that only 27% went back to ‘good causes’.
“The claim that 90% goes ‘back to the community’ includes retailers and businesses that sell the tickets, prize money itself and also includes the unclaimed prize money, which ironically finances the adverts themselves. I am of the view that the advert is very misleading.
“It was also said to the committee that the operator had breached its licence in 2021 by contacting 48 individuals that had chosen to self-exclude themselves from gambling and that no sanction or fine was imposed by the regulator.
“This was quite a serious breach of the licence; I imagine these are individuals looking to control their gambling habits and the National Lottery were still able to contact and solicit their involvement.
“We need to see stronger enforcement by the regulator and stricter controls within the licence and the committee will be proposing these changes in our report to the Minister.”