More than €17 million in unclaimed national lottery prizes was last year transferred to the operator of the National Lottery, Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI).
The €17.054 million in unclaimed prizes for 2021 brings to €124 million in unclaimed lottery prizes since 2015 that has been transferred to PLI.
The unclaimed lottery prize total of €17 million for 2021 is on a par with the €17 million that went unclaimed in 2020.
Figures show that €19 million was unclaimed in 2019 and this was preceded by €19 million in 2018, €16 million in 2017, €16 million in 2016 and €20 million in 2015.
In a written Dáil response on the issue, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath told TD John McGuinness that in accordance with the lottery licence, the full value of the €17 million in unclaimed prizes for 2021 was transferred to the operator of the National Lottery to be spent solely on promoting the National Lottery.
Minister McGrath stated: “The percentage of the €17 million that will be spent on incremental marketing and advertising, and the percentage that will be used for special draws or additional top up prizes in 2022, is not yet known.”
Mr McGrath said that the lottery operator considers, in this regard, that details of the percentages of the 2021 spend on incremental marketing and advertising, and on special draws or additional top up prizes is commercially sensitive under the licence and is not to be disclosed.
He said that it is further noted that the lottery regulator is required under a clause in the licence to seek the operator's consent to release such information “and that consent has not been forthcoming in this instance”.
Operator of the Irish Premier Lotteries Ireland DAC (PLI) was awarded a 20-year licence by the Government in November 2014 to operate the licence
At a Dáil Finance Committee on the operation of the National Lottery last December, Mr McGuinness described the €90 million that the lottery operator used to promote itself between 2015 and 2020 as a “fantastic amount”.
Commenting on the figures on Thursday, Mr McGuinness said: “This response indicates that the National Lottery operator, PLI, could be spending in excess of €17 million to advance its own commercial interests and not the interests of players or communities.
Furthermore, it appears PLI has a contract staked in its favour, with the regulatory powerless to secure even the most basic information.
Mr McGuinnesssaid: “There is a distinct lack of clarity and transparency around the National Lottery’s operations, budget and promotional activity which the Government, regulator, or PLI seem minded to address.
“This only serves to highlight the need for a clear and consistent approach to gambling regulation in this country.
“The Government’s proposal to have two regulatory regimes for the same sector is inefficient, nor does it ensure coherent application of rules and standards aimed at safeguarding consumers, especially young people.”
The most recent accounts for Premier Lotteries Ireland DAC show it recorded pre-tax profits of €22.3 million in 2020, as sales increased to €918.9 million.
During 2020 the firm paid out €253.6 million to ‘good causes’. The shareholders of the lottery firm are Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP), An Post and An Post Pension Funds.