State bets our money on bookies and casinos
Pensions and welfare cash invested in betting, 'big tobacco' and booze
The State has laid a bet on the continued growth of gambling - investing taxpayers' cash in casinos and big bookmaking firms, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
In a perverse irony, the National Pension Reserve Fund (NPRF) - the body tasked with raising funds to meet the future costs of social welfare and public service pensions - has sunk a small fortune in taxpayers' money in the shares of betting giants Paddy Power (4,064 shares valued at €280,050), Ladbrokes (83,625 shares valued at €118,636), Betfair (7,032 shares valued at €141,922) and the Las Vegas Sands casino group (3,825 shares valued at €183,232).
While the total value of the State's gambling-related shareholdings represents a relatively small proportion of its overall equity-based portfolio, they will invariably be seen as a reluctance at official level to seriously address gambling as an issue that blights the lives of so many of our citizens.
Not that gambling is the only vice in which the NPRF - now known as the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund - holds a stake.
An examination by the Sunday Independent of the fund's latest annual report shows that at the end of 2014, it held investments in a plethora of international drinks companies including: Heineken, Heineken Holdings, Molson Coors Brewing, pub chain JD Wetherspoon, Pernod Ricard, LVMH Moet Hennessy and Remy Cointreau.
Elsewhere in its investment portfolio, the State's Strategic Investment Fund holds 2.8m of corporate bonds in Budweiser producer Anheuser-Busch valued at €3.046m, which is due to mature on September 24, 2020, and 1.5m in corporate bonds in Carlsberg valued at €1.552m, which are due to mature on May 28, 2024.
Even more surprising is the State's continued investment in two of the world's biggest tobacco companies. A further inspection of the Fund's latest report shows it retains stakes in Philip Morris International (14,739 shares valued at €988,791) and Reynolds American (2,918 shares valued at €154,468).
In terms of corporate bonds, the Fund holds 1.13m bonds in Imperial Tobacco Finance valued at €1.279.
The National Treasury Management Agency defended the NPRF's investment decisions. Its spokesman said: "The NPRF had a long-term investment horizon given its statutory objective was to meet as much as possible of the costs of social welfare and public service pensions from 2025 until at least 2055."