Fine Gael rakes in €1m again from ‘Leo’s Lottery’
Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s party is running its €600,000 raffle with a licence reserved for charities.
A new law means only charities and philanthropic causes, such as sports clubs and community groups, can get a licence to run a lottery.
But Fianna Fáil has obtained permission from the courts to run its lucrative national draw.
A lottery licence from the court allows Fianna Fáil to charge €50 for a ticket, rather than a maximum of €10 under a permit from the gardaí.
The latest legal loophole emerges as Fine Gael has raked in just over €1m from its own superdraw. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s party used a legal loophole to adapt to the new law.
Sinn Féin is in the money too after generating more than €200,000 from a fundraiser at an elite golf club. Mary Lou McDonald’s party charged businesses $7,500 per team at the golf classic.
The Fianna Fáil minister who brought in the “modern, sensible and effective” new gambling law is promoting the sale of tickets. Junior minister James Browne is urging supporters to buy the €50 tickets.
When he introduced the new law exactly a year ago, he said: “Licences may be issued by the District Court for charitable and philanthropic causes only, for example, sports clubs, community groups.”
Under another law governing charities, the Charities Act 2009, political parties cannot be recognised as charities. The Charities Regulator reiterated this point in guidelines three years ago: “An organisation that has an exclusively political purpose cannot be a registered Irish charity under the Charities Act 2009.”
Yet Fianna Fáil has obtained a licence from the District Court to run the lottery. The party is availing of a loophole to come in under the umbrella of a charity to hold its superdraw, which brings in about €600,000 for party coffers.
The Department of Justice says there is no definition of the bodies that can apply to the District Court for a lottery licence, under section 28 of the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956-2019.
“The provisions of the act at section 28 do not preclude a political party from applying for a lottery licence. Determination of an application is a matter for the District Court. The Act does not contain a definition of charitable or philanthropic causes,” it said.
Mr Browne was asked by the Irish Independent whether he felt it was appropriate for Fianna Fáil to use a licence that is intended for charitable and philanthropic causes.
His response was more vague than his own department’s view on the law. “The issue of a lottery licence is a matter for the District Court,” he said.
“I’m not in a position to offer a legal interpretation of the provisions of legislation, and as a minister at the Department of Justice it would be inappropriate for me to do so.”
Fianna Fáil’s last set of published accounts show the party raised €588,158 from its superdraw in 2019 and €536,777 in 2018. The party did not respond to questions on whether it applied for the lottery licence as a charitable or philanthropic cause.
“An application was made to the Dublin Metropolitan Court for a licence pursuant to section 28 of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956, as amended. The matter was listed for hearing and an order was granted,” a spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael has banked €1.028m from its superdraw, which is known
now as Leo’s Lottery, after
selling 12,860 tickets at €80 each.
It has made €18m from its draw over the past 20 years, but it had to adjust its raffle format to take account of the new law, which restricts ticket prices to €10.
The “Election Superdraw 2021” tickets were still €80, but the party now holds 20 draws instead of one.