Warning National Lottery would stop people gambling on horses

Fears raised that decision to run lottery would be at expense of Hospitals Sweepstake

 Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes premises at Ballsbridge: The Hospitals Sweepstake argued the State had a moral obligation to its employees, as thoughts turned to the idea of the  National Lottery. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes premises at Ballsbridge: The Hospitals Sweepstake argued the State had a moral obligation to its employees, as thoughts turned to the idea of the National Lottery. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

A proposed national lottery would damage betting on horse racing, Lord Killanin warned then taoiseach Garret FitzGerald in 1985, State papers show.

Michael Morris, the third baron Killanin, who was also chairman of the commission of inquiry into the horse breeding industry, told FitzGerald that the Irish public always had a “close affinity to horse racing”.

In a letter dated September 9th, on the taoiseach’s office file, he said lotteries could damage other forms of gambling. In France, the Tiercé, a twice-weekly pool on a horse race, was losing out to a national lottery. “My only motivation is for the good of the Irish horse racing industry,” he said.

In response, FitzGerald wrote to say that he would bear these points in mind when the decision was being made.

Killanin was not alone in raising concerns. A report to then minister for health Barry Desmond warned that a decision to run a lottery would be a decision to close the Hospitals Sweepstake, run by a trust.

Funds for hospitals

Established in 1930, the aim of “the sweep” was to raise funds for hospitals in Ireland. It later emerged that only a fraction of the ticket price was given to good causes.

The internal report to Desmond said closure of the sweepstakes would result in the loss of 164 jobs.

“We would submit the government has a moral obligation to these employees, given the state has received in excess of £100 million from the trust since its establishment,” the report said.

There was also an obligation to the 703 pensioners depending on the trust for their income. The report suggested employees should be transferred to the new lottery or the trust should be allowed run the lottery. But a memo to government said it would be unacceptable to allow a private company to operate it. The trust’s status as a private company had been used over many years to deny access to its accounts, the memo said.

Gambling propensity

A joint submission was also received from the Rehabilitation Institute and the Central Remedial Clinic, seeking to run the lottery. Its authors argued that given the success of lotteries in other countries and “the known gambling propensity of Irish people”, it was bound to generate “very large amounts of money”.

The national lottery was established by legislation in 1986 and An Post, a semi-State company, was awarded the contract to operate it. The Government sold the lottery to private company Premier Lotteries Ireland in 2014.