More than 1,300 people who gambled on the National Lottery online excluded themselves from putting on any more bets using their accounts in 2021, new figures have revealed.
The National Lottery has said it suspended the accounts of 23 people “due to not engaging” with its responsible play team while it directly phoned 957 people to “discuss responsible play” in all of 2021.
The figures are contained in new information put on the National Lottery’s website regarding the number of online users it has and how many it has identified under its “player risk assessment”.
It said all of those registered are eligible to receive “responsible play communications” but the players who have also opted into marketing communications from the company will receive “additional” messaging in this regard.
It said that it identified 8,944 players who were sent a personalised communication. Furthermore, 1,694 of these were identified for such communication based only on what they spent.
Overall, it said it had just under 1.1 million registered users in 2021, but it’s understood far fewer would be buying tickets on a regular basis. On its website, the National Lottery says it engages in “pro-active early intervention” by sending out responsible play emails early and often, and then measuring the results.
It says it uses algorithms to intervene with people who purchase tickets even at a rate below the mandatory limits of €75 a day or €900 a month, and it uses “other activity markers” which may signal the risk of problematic play.
It said it is obliged to offer such services and is held to account by the independent lottery regulator. Although the Government is set to introduce new wide-ranging gambling laws later this year, including provisions aimed at curbing problem gambling and providing supports, the National Lottery comes under a separate remit with separate legislation.
The operations of the lottery and the scrutiny it faces from the regulator have come under the crosshairs of the Public Accounts Committee in recent times.
Social Democrat co-leader Catherine Murphy said she welcomed the publication of these stats but said that a portion of the unclaimed prize fund, of which 29% goes to good causes, could be invested in problem gambling areas.
“I think the operators of National Lottery though really could do a lot more in relation to its responsible play policies. I would like to see an audit of its responsible play policy and how it compares with comparable lottery gaming in other jurisdictions,” she said.
Barry Grant, from the Extern problem gambling charity, said in his experience addiction to lottery products in isolation are rare but do happen and it’s important to ensure that proactive measures are taken at an early stage of someone potentially developing an issue.
“The bar should be set fairly low and long before it becomes a problem,” he said. “It’s a less harmful, less addictive product [than sports gambling or casinos]. But they’re not harmless either. There are definitely people who experience harm and addiction. But that’s relative to the huge unregulated part of the gambling industry that is doing a great deal of harm.”