'Winning Streak' contestants use prize money to pay bills
CASH windfalls from the National Lottery's 'Winning Streak' TV programme are increasingly being used by winners to pay their bills or even keep their homes, host Marty Whelan has said.
As Europe's longest-running television gameshow enters its 24th season this autumn, the presenter said there has been a sea change in how winners are spending their prizes.
"In this climate, it's making a difference to people's lives," he said at the launch of the programme's new season at Dublin's Clarence Hotel yesterday.
"As opposed to people saying 'I'm going to the Caribbean,' suddenly they're buying furniture," he said.
"It has a huge impact now. If you win €20,000 or €30,000 or €40,000 apart from how much it would take to earn that, now you're in a whole different world and suddenly it's 'I can pay the bills, I can tell someone it's OK for awhile, I can keep the house," he told the Irish Independent.
His new co-host Sinead Kennedy, who previously hosted "The Big Money Game" on RTE One and stood in for Marty on 'Winning Streak' on a couple of occasions, said some winners are turning to their winnings to save their homes from being repossessed by the banks or even to cover basic household bills.
"There was a woman on 'The Big Money Game' during the summer who said she could have heating in her house for the first time in three years," said the 29-year-native of Ballincollig, Co Cork.
Before the recession, winners said they treat themselves to a cruise or spend it frivolously, she said. "But now, people are like 'I just want to pay the bills, I owe the credit union or like a woman last week who said 'I'm paying off my furniture week by week but now I'm going to walk in and hand him a chunk of it. It's just incredible what you can do for people now," she said.
The new series kicks off on Saturday night on RTE One and will run for 17 weeks until just after Christmas.
Aside from Mr Whelan's bubbly platinum blonde sidekick, the new season will feature the debut of the 'Prize Call' game in which players who scratch off the letters CALL on their Winning Streak scratch cards will get a chance each week to win up to €50,000.
Meanwhile, Dermot Griffin, CEO of the National Lottery which sponsors the gameshow, said that more than €143m in cash, cars and holidays has been awarded since the programme began 23 years ago.