Tuesday 25 October 2016

More spin in operator's message than Winning Streak

Published 08/08/2015 | 02:30

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

If you were to listen to Premier Lotteries Ireland yesterday, rather than being put out by the price hikes, consumers should be deeply thankful to them.

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Not only will the new lotto set-up have "bigger jackpots" with "more ways to win", it will also be "bigger, better and more exciting for the players".

While Lotto bosses will be keen to shout it from the rooftops, consumers can be forgiven for being sceptical. First, a €1 increase could add up to dozens or even hundreds of euro for a player over a year, and the widening odds, which have shot up from eight million to one to almost 11 million to one, may make the game "more exciting" but will be of scant consolation to those hoping to strike it rich.

Second, since PLI took over the operation of the lottery from An Post, it seems that every few months we see a headline like 'Lottery suffers glitch'. The most high-profile was the 'service outage' earlier this year which left machines across the country out of action and a €10m draw being postponed, but there have been other more issues such as glitches on the official website.

Now players are being asked to fork out more money for a service that has arguably decreased in quality since PLI took over its operation. This is not what we were promised when PLI took over the licence.

PLI will argue, understandably, that they need to make their money back. The company, which is run by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, forked out €405m to operate the licence for 20 years, and just breaking even won't cut it. Ontario is looking to roll out bigger, better and presumably more lucrative contracts in the US and Europe. It wants to notch up some success in Ireland first.

As the firm made a significant loss in its first month of operations here, raising prices makes sense to them, especially considering that rates had been largely static for years.

PLI is absolutely entitled to attempt to increase prices, but where has the regulator been in all this? At the time of the sale we were assured that their office would keep an eye on things, but a 25pc bump with hardly so much as a peep from the watchdog will rankle with consumers.

No one is asking for a company to go bust operating the Lotto, particularly considering the sizeable amounts it raises for various charities. And yes, the price increase should result in higher jackpots for the lucky few who do strike gold.

But an extra €1 marks Ireland out as being noticeably expensive, and there has hardly been a corresponding increase in the quality of service to justify it. It smacks of a rip-off.

Irish Independent

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