Lottery watchdog defends concerns about online betting on outcome of lotto draws

Lottery watchdog defends concerns about online betting on outcome of lotto draws

The lottery watchdog has defended raising concerns about online betting on the outcome of lotto draws - despite the practice being legal and outside her remit.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) has declined to respond to a query from the Irish Examiner as to whether it is appropriate that the Regulator should concern herself with lawful competition to the enterprise she is tasked with regulating.

The minutes of a November 2018 meeting between DPER officials and the Regulator of the National Lottery (RNL) Carol Boate show that Ms Boate told officials that “online bet-on-lottery operators who take bets on the outcome of Ireland's National Lottery games represent a threat to the long-term sustainability of the National Lottery - a threat which falls outside the remit of the RNL.”

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe recently made reference to the meeting in the Dáil, when he 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.

However when subsequently 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 minutes of the meeting released under the Freedom of Information Act to the Irish Examiner, acknowledge that online betting on lotto draws “is currently permitted under the State's gambling legislation and the operators targeting Irish customers are currently of a small scale and represent a very small part of the Irish market”.

“However, [Ms Boate] noted that they can become large extremely quickly (eg through retail deals) the operators attract customers by utilising selling techniques that the operator of the National Lottery is not permitted to engage in, eg two lines for the price of one, every bet on the National Lottery in lieu of purchasing a ticket represents a loss to good causes and to the scale of the jackpots - which drive National Lottery sales,” the minutes show.

The more people who choose to bet on the outcome of a National Lottery game instead of purchasing a ticket, the more downward pressure this will put on jackpots, and in turn on National Lottery sales, and in turn on returns to good causes.

“In such circumstances, the operators may seek to compete directly with the National Lottery by offering bets on their own lottery draw with their self-determined jackpots - held outside the jurisdiction,” Ms Boate warned.

Despite stating the matter was outside the Regulator’s remit, a spokesperson said the Regulator is tasked with ensuring the lottery’s sustainability.

A DPER spokesperson said the Department sought her views on the matter as “the Regulator is an experienced advocate and practitioner of better regulation for the benefit of consumers and the economy".

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