Ireland’s interim lottery laws and main National Lottery game are under pressure following calls for an audit and investigation into the number of times the jackpot has gone unclaimed.
The calls for the audit were made by Bernard Durkan TD, a member of the Fine Gael political party, which itself was accused by the Irish Independent just yesterday of exploiting a legal loophole to sell a package of 20 lottery draw tickets for €80 as part of a political fundraiser.
Fine Gael’s “Superdraw 2021” operates under a lottery permit. The party has insisted the draw is run in accordance with the law, including the most recent amendments affecting lotteries introduced last year.
The Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Act 2019 came into effect on December 1, 2020, and modernised various aspects of the country’s lottery laws. It served as an interim reform ahead of the long-awaited comprehensive update to the country’s gambling laws, which is due to be enacted next year.
Under these new interim rules, the maximum ticket price under a lottery permit is €10 and the maximum weekly prize fund limit is €5,000.
Typically, the political party has run a single annual draw but this year it is doing 20 draws, one per week, from December 1, 2021 to June 16, 2022.
Under the Superdraw’s game's terms and conditions, individual draws can be entered at a cost of €10.
However, the terms and conditions state that “this option is only available by calling into Fine Gael HQ four days before the relevant draw date. Individual draw tickets will not count towards the constituency quota.”
An €80 ticket for entry into 20 draws can be bought online.
Controversy over the party’s lottery draw follow Durkan’s own calls to investigate the Irish lottery regulator as 48 draws have taken place since the last jackpot was won.
Michael McGrath, minister for public expenditure, downplayed the long wait for a jackpot winner.
McGrath admitted the jackpot has carried over a “particularly long time” but told a Dáil Éireann debate on November 25 that it simply follows the “unpredictable nature” of lottery draws.
Ireland's lottery regulator is an independent office established by the National Lottery Act 2013 solely to regulate the National Lottery.
The regulator confirmed to McGrath that “strict protocols (are) in place to ensure that rigorous testing of equipment takes place before each and every Lotto draw and that each step of the draw process is strictly adhered to. Every Lotto draw is overseen by an independent auditor (KPMG).”
Any changes to the lottery draw protocols would require significant research, technical development and testing, according to the regulator's correspondence to McGrath.
If the operator of the National Lottery wants to make any changes to existing games or create new ones, it must receive approval from the regulator first.
Durkan’s main issue is with the fact the number of lottery balls in the draw has increased to 47.
He has called on the Andrew Algeo, CEO of Premier Lotteries Ireland, to “drop a couple of balls as a mark of good faith and make the draw more winnable. In 1988, there were 36 balls, 39 in 1992, 42 in 1994, 45 in 2006 before reaching a hefty 47 in 2015.”
Durkan also wants Alego to appear before the Oireachtas Committee to explain the situation.