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Taoiseach backs call for lotto regulator to be quizzed by TDs over lack of winners


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NATIONAL Lottery bosses could be hauled before a Dáil committee to answer why the Lotto jackpot has not been won in half a year.

The Taoiseach has suggested that the Oireachtas Finance Committee could run the numbers on the failure of anyone to win the National Lottery jackpot, which has now rolled over to €19,060,800, in six months.

He was responding to Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan, who raised in the Dáil the relentless rollovers, suggesting it was hitting the confidence of punters and could thereby impact associated good causes.

The last time the Lotto jackpot was won was on June 5 when an online player in Galway scooped €2,475,303, but the prize fund has climbed to more than €19million since then as no player matched the winning jackpot numbers.

Mr Durkan said he was raising the question on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of National Lottery players who have supported a good cause for many years, “and whose confidence has wavered in recent times.”

This was “by virtue of the fact that the main prize has been rolled over for almost six months,” he said.

While there was precedent for such a long spell without a winner – he cited a record set in 1913 at the casino in Monte Carlo and another at Las Vegas – the issue had to be questioned, “given the important work done by the National Lottery and the public concern,” with players needed to support the good causes that benefit from Lotto profit distribution.

The Taoiseach responded: “Can I ask if it may be appropriate to refer the matter to the Finance Committee, of which you are a member?

“It has the oversight and the minister, and with it the possibility of the regulator making an appearance in order to expedite the review already in hand by the minister’s department,” the Taoiseach said.

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He added: “I have noted of late the deputy’s tenacity and persistence on the issue of the Lottery and the necessity for somebody to win the prize.

“I think it should be could be taken up by the Committee on Finance. I think you should invite in the regulator which governs the licensing of the National Lottery.”

He joked: We all have high estimations of ourselves, but my capacity to produce a winner in the Lottery I don't think is within my grasp right now.

“But I wish you continued success and your efforts.”

Commenting later, Mr Durkan said: “Players who have been buying their Lotto tickets twice a week since June are rightly fed up. It’s high time to see what’s going on inside that machine – let’s see what is making those balls spin.”

“We haven’t seen a winner of the top prize in almost six months. How long more will people continue to buy tickets if they don’t believe they have a fair chance of winning? We have to get to the root of exactly what’s at play here – are the 47 rollovers to date just pure chance, or are there flaws that need to be addressed,” he asked.

Mr Durkan added: “People have questions, and the regulator, who is responsible for the monitoring of the operation of the Lotto, must provide us with answers. The regulator must outline what steps can be taken to provide the public with clarity and reassurance.”

He pointed out that the pandemic significantly boosted ticket sales last year. Revenues increased from €884.5m in 2019 to €918.9m last year – while online sales grew by 68.28pc. Buying tickets and choosing numbers on a computer now represents 14.8pc of total sales.

“Sales are up, yet the winners are down. The lotto is like Manchester United, cash being splashed about every week, but a long barren spell sustains with nothing to show for it.”

He said he had now written to the Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath, whose Department oversees the National Lotto, to express his concern.

“I am aware he has commissioned a report into the transparency of the distribution of Lotto funding, but we need to go further and investigate the operation of the game itself.

“I am asking the regulator, out of respect to the public, to appear before the Oireachtas Committee and explain this situation so that players are provided with the assurance they need to continue playing our National Lottery.”

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