The View from the Blue from the Waterford News & Star September 14, 2021
I’VE written about the National Lottery on this platform before because it’s one of those things that’s just there, and most people don’t give it a second thought, even when they’re actually playing it. Firstly, there are some positive things about the way the National Lottery operates, from a responsible gambling perspective. When you’re online, with the ability to enter one of their draws or buy a scratch card, the most they allow you to lose per day is €75. That’s still a significant amount of money to invest on scratch cards or the like but if they didn’t have a limit, you could imagine how someone with an addiction could rack up some serious losses. Also, they don’t allow you to play their games between the hours of 10pm and 7am. This again is a very responsible gambling protection and I applaud them for it. There are a number of reasons why chronic gamblers lose money at night and it’s probably not for the reason you expect. You could be forgiven for thinking that it has something to do with alcohol and its incredible powers of logic deletion. In actual fact, it has more to do with the solitude that comes with the darkness. Most addictions need privacy in order to breed and at night people can gamble while their loved ones are asleep etc. There are less distractions at night too – no screaming children, buzzing phones or knocks on the door. Just you, and a smartphone sucking the money from your bank account at a staggering speed.
So yes, well done to the National Lottery for getting those things right, but I have to pull them up on a few other things. First and foremost, let’s accept that the National Lottery has become a permanent part of Irish society. It’s seen as harmless fun. If you’re not in, you can’t win. And of course, someone has to win right? The problem is, since this new crowd took over in 2013, they’ve made it a lot more expensive to play and a hell of a lot harder to win. They’ve also gotten a lot more stingy with the money that they’re giving away. Before I get into that, here’s a little more info about the current owners of the lottery – Premier Lotteries. Curiously, they are made up of An Post, An Post Pension Funds and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP). The Canadian pension fund holds the majority shares and I think you’ll agree, it’s quite a curious conglomerate. They have the contract for the Irish Lotto until 2034 and as soon as they took over they added more balls to the drum – making it harder to win – and increased the cost of a line. It now costs you €6 for two lines of the lotto (including the plus draw, which is rarely won to be honest), which is quite a lot more than the £1 per line we were all paying back in the day.
At the time of writing this column, the lotto jackpot is “an estimated €14 million”. On August 25, it was €11.8m, on August 28 it went up to €12.4m, September 1 €12.9m, September 4, €13.6m. So, it goes up approximately €500k every time someone doesn’t win the jackpot. If the jackpot hits €18.9m, it’s capped. According to a recent survey, approximately 1.3 million Irish people play the lotto every week. So, let’s say that they all do the bare minimum of two lines at €6 a pop, that’s a total of €7.8 million in revenue each week, and they only increase the jackpot by €500k each time.
You see, the problem for Irish people is that the Canadian Pension Fund, which describes itself as “Canada’s largest single-profession pension plan with $189.5 billion in net assets” has a lot of responsibilities to its clients. According to their website they say that “Our investment program has one goal: to earn the best possible returns, at an appropriate level of risk, to pay pensions to our members.” Let’s put it another way: Ireland is heavily investing in Canadian pensions.
For three major reasons, Premier Lotteries are making it as hard as possible for people to win: 1. Their responsibility to their clients. 2. They paid €405m up front to the Irish Government in 2013 (when we were stony broke), so they had to claw that back before they did anything else. 3. As part of the lottery licensing agreement, Premier Lotteries have to pay out 65% of everything they earn to “good causes”. Now, where all that money is going is a story for another day, but when you look at those three points, you’ll soon understand why barely anyone wins more than a free ticket on a scratch card and the lotto has gotten so much harder to win.
Oh, and one more thing. You know all that money that goes unclaimed? Premier Lotteries get to keep that to finance their marketing campaigns. You’d feel a bit like a fool, wouldn’t you?