The club lotto is back - but certainly not as we know it.
Gone is the ball drum, paper tickets, and the traditional pub setting in which the weekly draw took place. In its stead is a new online system that GAA clubs up and down the country have been availing of to reopen their revenue streams.
In truth, clubs have been left with little option but to migrate online. For most, the lotto is their main source of income and with pubs not scheduled to reopen until August 10, clubs simply cannot afford to wait another 11 weeks before recommencing their weekly draw.
Clubs’ day-to-day costs have, of course, been significantly reduced as a result of the ongoing GAA lockdown, but many are repaying loans and are therefore wary of falling into arrears.
As Monaghan club Scotstown highlighted on their Facebook page in advance of their first online lotto draw last week, “this is our only source of income at this current time”.
Galway club Ballinasloe - another to move their weekly draw online - have frozen their jackpot at €5,600 until pubs reopen. The club said this was not an “easy decision”, but understandable in the context that local pubs not only provided a venue for the weekly draw, it is in these pubs where the vast bulk of tickets were sold.
Ballincollig GAA club in Cork held their first online lotto last Tuesday. The response was phenomenal, says chairman David Walsh.
“It was more than double what we normally take in,” he remarked.
“It does come with its own issues, though. While you would think that because it is online, everyone can play and play whenever they want, the problem for older members might be that some are not tech savvy or maybe some might be a bit dubious about giving out their card details.
“We put together a full guide as to how to actually play the lotto online. We advertised that on social media and through our traditional sellers.
“People who maybe were a bit dubious about it beforehand are now coming around to the idea and saying, it is not that difficult at all.”
The Ballincollig club is currently in the process of improving their playing facilities to the tune of €1m, including the laying of a 4G pitch. And with numerous planned fundraising events falling foul of Covid-19, restarting the lotto draw, albeit in a new guise, became necessary.
“We normally run a Golf Classic in May, do a door-to-door collection in June for the juvenile section, and there is also the Belle of Ballincollig festival in June. Between all those, you are talking about bringing in €30,000-plus, so that revenue stream is gone.
"A lot of clubs bring in about €1,000 from their lotto each week. It is around 20 weeks from the beginning of the lockdown to when the pubs can reopen, so that's €20,000. If you add that onto the €30,000 you are down, that's nearly €50,000, so we said, we had to try to do something.”
Those behind Clubforce, the app which is making it possible for clubs to run online lotto draws, predict that sales of online lottery tickets at amateur sports clubs will quadruple this month as the shift away from cash-based fundraising gathers momentum.