Lotto betting operators have reacted furiously to being called "parasites" by the National Lottery here.
The European Lotto Betting Association (ELBA), an industry body representing so-called bet-on-lotto operators, described as "scandalous" comments by National Lottery chief executive Dermot Griffin.
At the launch of the National Lottery's enhanced Lotto Plus game on Thursday, Mr Griffin claimed these operators were "siphoning off" money for good causes and "piggybacking" on the State's lottery games, while in a recent interview with The Irish Times, he called them "parasites".
However, ELBA chairwoman Lena Patel, who is also head of corporate affairs at MyLotto24, a website which offers punters a chance to bet on the outcome of lotto draws, said lotto betting was fully licensed and regulated in Ireland.
“ It simply gives people another opportunity to win huge sums of money. Our members are not ‘parasites’, do not ‘siphon’ money and do not ‘piggyback’ off state lotteries,” she said.
“ In fact, we help increase the overall market size and innovation in the lottery space,” she said.
“You just have to look at the fact that the National Lottery’s own turnover and profitability has increased in the two years since lotto betting companies joined the Irish market to see these claims by National Lottery operator Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI) are wholly unfounded.
“It’s also very strange for PLI to talk about shrinking good cause contributions, when the national lottery’s unclaimed prize money is put back into marketing rather than distributed to charity – a business strategy that is likely to have a far bigger impact than lotto betting,” she said.
Websites such as MyLotto24 and Lottoland offer consumers the chance to select numbers for National Lottery here and for the bigger draws in the US, where jackpots frequently hit $1 billion, without buying an actual ticket.
If a player hits the right numbers, the companies pledge to pay the equivalent prize money, relying on a complex formula of hedging and insurance.
There are currently up to 15 so-called synthetic lotteries operating in the Ireland.
Australia recently moved to ban third-party betting on national lottery games after some state lottos there reported a 20 per cent fall-off in sales as a result of competition from these sites. The National Lottery here is pressing for a similar crack down.