Donohoe: No evidence online bets on draws hit Lotto business

The National Lottery has said it is disappointed after Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said “there does not appear to be any evidence” that online betting on the outcome of draws is having an impact on the Lotto’s business. Mr Donohoe’s comments come amid an ongoing row between the National Lottery and gambling operators, with the former claiming that betting on the outcome of lottery draws on third-party websites is “cannibalising” Lotto earnings, which has a consequential impact on money raised for good causes.

The National Lottery has repeatedly called on the Government to legislate in the area. However pressed on the issue in the Dáil recently, Mr Donohoe said the latest reports of the current Lotto operator, Premier Lotteries Ireland, show an increase in gross ticket sales.

“Against this background, there does not appear to be any evidence of a significant impact on the National Lottery arising from online lottery betting at present,” said Mr Donohoe. “The facts and figures indicate that the current contribution made by the National Lottery to good causes has not yet been materially affected by other developments within the lotteries here in terms of online or electronic lotteries. The contribution that the exchequer has received from the national lottery attests to that.”

The National Lottery said it notes Mr Donohoe’s comments “with disappointment” and that almost 30c in every euro spent on the Lotto’s games goes to good causes, with over €227m raised last year.

“While the minister said there does not appear to be any evidence of a significant impact on the National Lottery from online lottery betting ‘at present’, we believe it is paramount that action is taken now before any serious damage is done,” a spokesperson for the National Lottery said.

“The loophole in Irish law which allows betting on the outcome of lottery draws, including the National Lottery, in our view represents a critical threat, and we remain concerned. The offshore operators are being allowed significant commercial advantage over the National Lottery in Ireland. These operators have impacted on Lottery sales, and therefore the return to good causes, in other jurisdictions including Australia and the UK, where they have subsequently been banned."

The National Lottery also noted that Mr Donohoe said that he had met with the lotto regulator who has “expressed concern about the potential future impact of online lottery betting in Ireland”.

However when asked by the Irish Examiner, a spokesperson for the Regulator repeatedly refused to say what concerns it aired in the meeting with the minister, and said “releasing information on department meetings must be a decision for the department”.

“The regulator was asked for a view on a policy matter outside her remit and she provided one as part of a department meeting,” said the spokesperson.

The European Lotto Betting Association, an industry body representing operators who take bets on lotto draws, welcomed Mr Donohoe’s comments. “As we have said for some time, the evidence clearly shows that lottery betting does not impact the National Lottery. We are pleased the minister has recognised this,” said Elisa Field, ELBA’s chairperson and senior legal counsel at myLotto24.”

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