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Lotto boss under fire from TDs over €19m jackpot not being won for six months

The operator of the National Lottery has come under fire from TDs over the €19m jackpot not being won for six months.

t the Oireachtas Finance Committee, TDs raised concerns about the Lotto draw and the level of prize money that has gone unclaimed in recent years.

Speaking at the meeting, Premier Lotteries Limited chief executive Andre Algeo revealed the number of tickets sold in the last four months, when the jackpot has not been won, has been “higher than normal”.

Mr Algeo also told the committee at least €107m in prize money has gone unclaimed since 2016.

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He said the unclaimed prize money is used to promote the National Lottery which he said meant more tickets being sold and customers benefitting from bigger jackpots.

He said the new ‘must be won’ draw will be introduced “as soon as possible” and could see the jackpot divided between players who have five numbers or five numbers and a bonus ball if not one has picked the exact six numbers drawn.

Regulator of the National Lottery, Carol Boate, said she was contacted by Premier Lotteries in November about the possibility of introducing a ‘must be won’ draw.

But a formal request to change the draw only came in December after issues with the jackpot were raised by Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan.

Ms Boate said the running of the lottery was above board and she is confident the technology in place is of a high standard. She said she will examine the proposal for the ‘must be won’ draw to ensure it does not have any unintended consequences.

She said she did not have concerns about the lottery system being hacked when questioned on the matter by Mr Durkan.

Mr Durkan questioned Mr Algeo on his qualifications to oversee the operation of the National Lottery and sought details of how the draw was operated. Mr Algeo revealed he previously worked for gambling company Paddy Power.

Finance Committee chair John McGuinness said the Lotto operator seemed to be benefitting from the unclaimed prize money and asked for a full breakdown of how much has not been won in recent years.

Mr Algeo said the unclaimed prizes amounted to €17m in 2020; €19m in 2019; €19m in 2018; €16m in 2017; €16m in 2016 and €20m in 2015.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said the National Lottery “system is broken” and claimed it “didn’t happen by accident”.

Mr Tóibín said the addition of extra balls to the draw had made it more difficult to win for players. The Meath West TD took exception to Mr Algeo when he said he could not provide a breakdown of his company’s monthly turnover for commercial sensitivity reasons.

Mr Tóibín asked who the National Lottery is in competition with and Mr Alego said “everybody who is competing for household disposable expenditure”.

Sinn Féin TD Mairead Farrell said the “privatisation” of the National Lottery was “always going to decrease the number of winners and increase the number of losers”.

Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond questioned Mr Alego on what he perceived to be an increase in advertising by Premier Lotteries since questions were raised about the jackpot not being won for six months by Mr Durkan. The lottery boss said the amount the company spends on advertising has varied from week to week.

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