Irish bookmakers challenge lottery betting ban

Bookmakers in Ireland have voiced their opposition to the potential passing of a law that would prohibit bets on the National Lottery.

As reported in the Irish Examiner, the Seanad will debate a bill today that would ban firms from offering bets on the outcome of the National Lottery draw, which has been available since its formation in the 1980’s. If passed, the bill will then be discussed further in the ​​Dáil.

Currently, there is much more money to be made for players betting on three numbers in bookmakers than there is in matching three numbers in the actual lottery draw.

However, three Fine Gael senators – Barry WardMicheál Carrigy and Emer Currie – have sponsored an amendment to the National Lottery Act 2013 to prohibit bookmakers from providing such a service, citing the lack of “social dividend” of supporting good causes that comes from playing the National Lottery.

Barry Ward, Seanad Spokesperson on Justice, commented: “It is diverting money away from good causes and into the belly of profit-making companies.”

In response, bookmakers have rejected the idea that their National Lottery services should be outlawed, claiming that removal of the product would result in the closure of shops across the country, a suggestion Ward said he “does not buy”.

“Our numbers product has been offered in Paddy Power shops for almost thirty years,” said a spokesperson for Flutter, the parent company of Paddy Power. “The success of the National Lottery during that time suggests that both products are distinct and can exist side by side.”

While Ward accepts that there is no certainty that shutting down bets would lead to a turnover of customers into the Lotto, he estimates there would be between €20m and €140m that would go back into the fund, a proportion of which would help community groups.

Emer Currie, Seanad Spokesperson for Employment Affairs, added: “If it’s money that is being spent on the lottery, then good causes fund should benefit. This is about defending the social dividend.”

However, a spokesperson for the Irish Bookmakers Association has said the bill would represent “a loss in consumer choice, a net loss to revenue, and the potential loss of hundreds of jobs”.

“Crucially, it will not have the desired policy outcome of increasing the Good Causes Fund,” the spokesperson added.

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