Howlin urged to rethink lottery sale

Less than 3 per cent of ticket sales come from internet trade

Less than 3 per cent of ticket sales come from internet trade

Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 00:00

Independent Senator Marie-Louise O’Donnell today moved a private members’ motion in the Seanad, calling on Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin to reconsider his plans to sell-off the national lottery licence.

Ms O’Donnell said the licence should be awarded to the operator “best equipped” to run the business for the benefit of the public, and not to the highest bidder.

She said the “only basis” on which a buyer will pay hundreds of millions for the licence “is that they expect to make even more back”.

“If there is profit to be made, it should be made for and by the Irish people - those who are paying for the tickets in the first place."

Mr Howlin plans to award an extended 20-year licence to the winner of a bidding contest, scheduled to take place later this year.

The Minister is hoping the relatively untapped potential of the online market will be enough to secure a big upfront payment for the exchequer.

However, Ms O’Donnell told the Seanad today: “If online does offer those extra profits, they should come to the Irish people, not an international investor.”

She also warned that “free for all” online environment may come at a price, in terms of problem gambling.

“If the price turns out to be too high for our society to pay, and we need to adjust, better that the license be operated here by a company tasked with benefiting the Irish people, than by an international one driven only by the need to capitalise on its investment.”

The Senator said that Mr Howlin's main reason for selling the licence is to generate an upfront fee which will fund the building of the proposed national children’s hospital.

However, she suggested that ring-fencing the proceeds of one lottery activity, like Wednesday night’s draw for example, would drive extra sales for that game and “would easily pay for the hospital on a phased basis”.

Ms O'Donnell has established a website - www.dontlootthelottery.ie - to inform those interested about the issues.

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