Cantillon: Lotto regulator seems a bit unsure about the numbers

Liam Sloyan faces criticism over lack of supervision of National Lottery operator

Since Premier Lotteries Ireland’s parent took over the lotto in 2014,  it has become harder to win and more costly to play, and there has been a proliferation of online games, leading to concerns about problem gambling. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Since Premier Lotteries Ireland’s parent took over the lotto in 2014, it has become harder to win and more costly to play, and there has been a proliferation of online games, leading to concerns about problem gambling. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The National Lottery regulator appeared before an Oireachtas committee hearing on Tuesday, but he didn’t provide as much information to members as might have reasonably been expected.

The lotto franchise was sold to Premier Lotteries Ireland’s parent in 2014 for €405 million, and since the still-newish operator took over, it has become harder to win and more costly to play.

Under Liam Sloyan’s tenure in charge as regulator, which began in 2015, there has also been a proliferation in games offered through the online channel, including a €20 scratch card game, amid concern over an increase in problem gambling.

However, Sloyan appeared unsure on Tuesday about the number of games currently being offered online or the price tags attached.

Riskier elements

Despite this, he couldn’t remember how many new games he had officially sanctioned, eventually guessing it was “somewhere between 30 and 40”.

Sloyan also seemed a touch vague on the precise vetting criteria being used, suggesting nonetheless it was consistent with relevant literature on problem gambling.

When it came to player protections and a potential loophole allowing users to open multiple accounts, he deflected questions on the grounds of commercial sensitivity.

Effective monopoly

And if this wasn’t bad enough, two years after the operator was forced to postpone a midweek lotto draw in the face of a technology meltdown, the biggest fiasco in Irish lotto history, there is still no published report as to what went on.

Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane suggested there seemed to be a lack of supervision of how PLI was pushing its products, an assertion that, on reflection, might at least merit a little bit more discussion.