Sunday 17 December 2017

Camelot held talks on widening net for Irish lottery players online

Fears vulnerable will find it too easy to gamble

UK LOTTERY: Camelot is looking at the Irish gambling market
UK LOTTERY: Camelot is looking at the Irish gambling market

THE operator of the British lottery has admitted it held discussions with the Department of Finance here on how to change the rules to make it easier to gamble online.

The alterations make it simpler to register online, allowing people to gamble up to €300 a week on the Lotto. But this has sparked fears that vulnerable people will find it too easy to gamble online, and on mobile and tablet devices.

UK lottery operator Camelot said it discussed how to make it easier to play the Irish Lottery online.

Camelot is owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, which was part of the consortium that successfully bid for the Lottery franchise here.

The lottery franchise was sold by the Government for €405m in February to the consortium called Premier Lotteries Ireland, which is made up of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and also includes An Post.

A spokeswoman for Camelot insisted it had no direct involvement in the running of the Irish Lottery.

But she admitted that before the winning bid was selected Camelot was involved in discussing how to improve online lottery sales here, but denied this amounted to lobbying.

"Camelot did partake in meetings with the department and were actively asked about how the online process works in the UK."

New licensing terms put in place just before the sale have seen the rules governing online sales substantially relaxed.

The registration process has been eased to make it less onerous to stake money online and on a mobile device.

Before the changes were made players had to submit a passport number or driver's licence to activate accounts, which took up to 48 hours.

The restrictions meant most potential online players never completed the process.

Under the new licence there is a simpler registration process which takes users only a few minutes to complete.

Now players only need to present a passport or a driver's licence if they want to claim a prize of more than €501.

Making it easier to register online has seen a 42pc surge in online sales for the National Lottery. There are now almost 85,000 active players registered and online sales rose 30pc last year to €11.3m, a spokesman for the National Lottery said.

Players who register online for what is called Play Now! can spend up to €900 a month, with a daily limit of €75.

Asked if the changes had not made it easier for vulnerable people to gamble, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform defended the changes.

She stressed that there were daily, weekly and monthly limits to stop consumers losing too much money. She added that no prizes would be paid to those under the age of 18.

"The new provisions in relation to playing Lottery games via the internet are a function of the provisions in the National Lottery Act 2013," the spokeswoman for Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said.

Safeguards were in place to ensure vulnerable people did not end up over-extending themselves. Players can set lower self-imposed limits than those imposed by the National Lottery, she said.

"The National Lottery closely monitors play levels on the Play Now! channel. If there is any sign of unusual player behaviour, the National Lottery, under its terms and conditions, has the right to suspend the play activity of any player, pending further investigation/examination."

Mr Howlin has previously insisted that the online gaming option needed to be opened up, but in a responsible manner.

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