Lotto defies ‘tax on the poor’ stereotype

Report suggests National Lottery is played by all income groups in equal measure

Tara Kelly from Beaumount “wins” €250,000 on the Winning Streak wheel, with the help of Kamal Ibrahim and Marty Whelan, on Culture Night 2017. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Tara Kelly from Beaumount “wins” €250,000 on the Winning Streak wheel, with the help of Kamal Ibrahim and Marty Whelan, on Culture Night 2017. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

An age-old rebuke levelled at national lotteries is that they are a tax on the poor. The criticism is borne out by countless studies showing those on lower incomes tend to play more and spend more than their richer counterparts.

A National Lottery-commissioned report by consultants Indecon suggests the profile of lotto players here, however, doesn’t conform to this stereotype.

It found that when broken down by the social and economic class the percentages mirrored those of the wider population, meaning richer people tend to play with the same regularity as poorer people.

The study conveniently didn’t detail what each group was spending, which might have presented a different picture.

Lotteries the world over are keen to draw a distinction between their business, which is predicated on a high volume of players placing small stakes, and the betting or gaming industry, which plies its trade from a considerably smaller cohort of high-spending, high-frequency punters.

How many times have you heard the phrase, “a harmless flutter that might just change your life”? It’s the business model upon which modern, mass-participation lotteries are built. It fuels a near-frenzied purchase of tickets every week and accounts for billions of euro being spent each year.

Lotteries usually deflect criticism by referring to their good cause funds. The franchise here has generated €5.1 billion for good causes since its inception in 1987, including €226 million last year.

The Indecon report suggests the National Lottery commands 13 per cent of State’s €5.6 billion betting and lottery market, a statistic that reflects just how big the betting industry here has got.

While the report doesn’t specify how this figure has changed over the years, it does suggest the lotto is under increasing pressure from alternative types of gaming and a new wave of industry disruptors in the form of bet-on-lotto sites. National Lottery boss Dermot Griffin recently referred to the latter as “parasites”, suggesting they were “siphoning” money away from good causes.

Nobody seems to have a handle on whether these firms have grabbed a sizeable share of the Irish lotto market, but the incumbent is known to be lobbying the Government behind the scenes for a clampdown.

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