National Lottery operator uses nearly all unclaimed prizes to boost advertising budget

About €120m of unclaimed prizes between 2015 and 2021 used for ‘marketing’ while just €2m topped up prizes

The private company that operates the National Lottery put just €2 million, or just over 1.5 per cent, of all unclaimed prizes back into the prize pot over the last seven years, a report from the State’s financial watchdog, the Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG) has revealed.

It has used €120 million, or 96.7 per cent, of the €124 million left unclaimed by lottery players in that time to supplement its advertising budget.

The C&AG’s financial report on the public services for 2021 shows that the operator, Premier Lotteries Ireland, a joint venture between An Post and the post company’s pension fund, as well as the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, took control of an average of €17.7 million in unclaimed prizes each year, from 2015 to 2021. UK company Camelot also supplies services to the consortium.

‘Incremental marketing’

Under the licence agreement signed in 2014, the company is entitled to take any unclaimed prizes after an expiry period. The licence says that unclaimed prize money must be used for either additional special draws and to top-up prizes for customers, or for marketing and advertising the National Lottery. However, the licence does not stipulate how much of the unclaimed cash should be used for each.

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The C&AG report shows that between 2015 and 2021, a total of about €124 million was forfeited to the lottery operator. All but €2 million of the total was spent by the operator, as permitted under the terms of its licence. Of the €122 million spent, €120 million was spent on “on incremental marketing”, the report says.

Premier Lotteries Ireland spent €405 million in 2014 for a 20-year licence from the State to run the lottery. The company is overseen by a State regulator. Total ticket sales were more than €1.1 billion last year, two-thirds higher than the annual sales in the first year of the 20-year licence in 2015. Prizes last year totalled €586 million. About €290 million was transferred to the State’s Central Fund in 2021 to pay for public services. The operator’s entitlement was €103 million last year.

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is Business Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Caveat column