The regulator of the National Lottery said it had no role in sanctioning a controversial pilot scheme to extend the sale of scratchcards to all checkouts in large supermarkets.
Concern has been voiced by a group supporting people with a gambling addiction about the greater prominence given to scratch card dispensers — which contain up to 19 different games — by placing them in each checkout aisle.
Opposition politicians also expressed reservations about a pilot programme under way in some Tesco, Dunnes Stores, and SuperValu outlets. The National Lottery has placed the large scratchcard display containers with high visibility electronic signs in 14 supermarkets around the country. The cost of scratch card games ranges from €1 to €20.
A spokesperson for the Office of the Regulator of the National Lottery said the company did not require its approval to increase the number of locations where National Lottery products can be sold within individual stores. “Authorised retailers are permitted to select the point of sale location or locations within their premises for official lottery products, as long as sales are made in compliance with the terms of the Retailer Authorisations agreement,” the spokesperson said.
“They include signs detailing player eligibility and that no lottery games will be sold to under 18s.”
However, Problem Gambling Ireland, which offers support to people with gambling addictions, said the test programme was “a worrying development”.
“This is an incentive to increase impulse buying,” said PGI chief executive Barry Grant. “The National Lottery seems to spend more on advertising than anyone else in the country. They are on TV, radio billboards, and online and they now seem to be moving into the one space they’re not already in.”
The gambling addiction expert predicted any increase in the sale of scratchcards was also likely to result in more people with gambling problems.
RGDATA, the organisation representing independent supermarkets, declined to comment on the issue.
A spokesperson for the National Lottery said the pilot programme was part of the constant review the company carried out of its retail offering to reflect consumer demand and trends.
“Player protection and responsible play remain at the heart of our operations and the retail developments in no way change our commitment to operate the National Lottery in a socially responsible way.”
She added: “Our research shows that convenience and access is very important to our customers, who would like the option to do their grocery shopping and buy a National Lottery game at the same checkout, rather than having to queue up a second time when in store.”
Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan claimed it was an attempt to normalise gambling among shoppers: “This is completely wrong and is something which the regulator of the National Lottery should restrict.”
Social Democrats co- leader Róisín Shortall said: “We shouldn’t be making it easier for people to spend money on lottery tickets by putting temptation in their way. ”
SuperValu and Tesco said they were complying with rules for selling National Lottery products. Dunnes Stores did not respond to a request for comment.
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