PLUMMETING support for the Irish Hospital Sweepstakes led the government to consider reviewing an earlier rejection of a national computerised lottery game.
Documents reveal a memo to Taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald and his cabinet from the attorney-general, raising issues about the legal basis of a new national lottery, its profitability and ownership.
However, in one scathing memo, a civil servant in the Department of the Taoiseach warned: "The Hospitals Trust has had a knack of presenting figures so that one would want to be an accountant to make sense of them."
Launched in 1930, the Irish Hospital Sweepstakes (IHS) saw sales increase until it peaked in 1961 at IR£18m. Sales then began to decline.
In 1983, IHS proposed a radical revamp of its operations and the launch of a weekly 'Lotto' draw. In a letter to the Taoiseach's office on June 8, 1983, the IHS proposed a national lottery operation based on the Ontario Lottery Corporation in Canada. This would involve computerised sales points and weekly draws.
"Hospital Trust would be in a position to continue their existing operations including maintaining present employment levels," the letter stated.
However, the IHS proposal came just one month after senior officials within Dr FitzGerald's department had raised questions over the future of the Hospitals Trust.
In a confidential memo dated May 31, one civil servant wrote: "Yet again, the figures supplied with their proposals do not appear to add up. This strikes me as ominous."