More than €16 million in unclaimed National Lottery prize money is to be used to support Covid-19 health efforts.
The money has been returned to the Exchequer at the end of a lengthy dispute that dates back to 2014 when the National Lottery was privatised and sold to Canadian-owned Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI).
As part of the process, PLI inherited €16.092 million in unclaimed prize money from the previous licence holder, An Post. The money had accumulated over the course of some 27 years.
The dispute emerged as it was not explicitly stated in the licence what should happen to the money. Under current licence rules, the licence-holder can use the money in promotions.
The Department of Public Expenditure believed the money should revert to the National Lottery Good Causes fund as it was generated by the previous licence holder but PLI contended it should be able to use the money.
The matter was eventually referred to the Attorney General and the Regulator of the National Lottery has now confirmed there is "no basis" for the current licence holder to use the money.
The issue has been resolved by an amendment to the license following a review by the regulator and in agreement with the operator.
Carol Boate, Regulator of the National Lottery stated; “Following thorough consideration of the matter I had concluded that there was no basis for the money to be used by the current operator.
"This agreement with the operator now means the money can be returned to the Exchequer without delay for use by Good Causes, further ensuring that funds for this purpose are maximised at this time.”
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe confirmed the money would be used to support the health sector in the Covid-19 fight.
Commenting on this development, Minister Donohoe said, “I am pleased that the €16 million of historic expired prizes has become available to support investments in health at a time of unprecedented national crisis due to COVID-19.”
National Lottery CEO, Andrew Algeo said, “All of us at the National Lottery are delighted to see this €16 million used to improve health in our communities. PLI has been pleased to work together with the Regulator to make these funds available at this time. Thanks to our players the National Lottery raised over €250m for thousands of Good Causes in 2019 and perhaps more than ever, plays a vital role in supporting clubs, charities and great causes across the country.”