independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Lotto winners suspected of welfare fraud to be identified

There was no winner of tonight's Lotto jackpot of just under €4 million

SOCIAL welfare inspectors will finally have the right to find out if Lotto jackpot winners are still claiming the dole.

But under the new Lotto Bill, the National Lottery will not be allowed to pass on the names of winners automatically.

The Department of Social Protection must have its suspicions about a particular person and then check their name with the National Lottery to see if they are a Lotto winner.

An estimated 70pc – more than 300 of the country's 452 Lotto millionaires – have opted to keep their identities a secret. And the Department of Social Protection currently has no powers to find out their names.

This means it is technically possible for Lotto millionaires to continue to receive social welfare payments, even though they would fail the means test if the department was aware of their €1m-plus windfall.

Now, 26 years after the Lotto was founded, the department is finally going to be given the power to check if a person on social welfare has won the jackpot. The change is contained in the forthcoming legislation to sell off the National Lottery licence to a private operator.

Confidential

The Department of Social Protection has refused to say if it believes that some people who have won €1m-plus jackpots may still be claiming social welfare payments.

"It is important to recognise that while the vast majority of people are receiving the entitlement due to them, efforts to combat fraudulent activity, where it does occur, must be maintained and strengthened, where possible," a spokeswoman said.

The Government will have the option of changing this section in the Lotto Bill when it is debated in the Dail in the coming months.

Irish Independent

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