After several years of falling sales, a controversial privatisation process and a change to its playing format, the National Lottery is back on a winning streak.
The franchise, which is run by Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI), has reported a 12 per cent jump in turnover to €750 million for 2016 amid a strong pick-up in sales through its online channel.
As a result, it managed to generate €213 million for good causes, up from €188 million the previous year.
Draw-based games, which include the lottery’s main twice-weekly draw and the Friday EuroMillions draw, generated sales of nearly €530 million, while sales from scratch cards and online instant win games rose to a record €220 million.
The results show players shared an overall prize pool of €422 million last year with the largest jackpot of €13.8 million won by a lucky punter in Belmullet, Co Mayo.
The strong performance was helped by the introduction of a new online channel and mobile app which saw the number of players registering to play online rise by 50 per cent to 387,000.
The figures show sales through the National Lottery’s online channels grew by 77 per cent to €40.7 million in 2016. Significantly, the jump in online sales was achieved without eroding the group’s offline trade in shops, which was also up by nearly 10 per cent.
Retailers have longed feared that the opening up of the National Lottery’s online channel, agreed as part of the recent privatisation process, would cannibalise their trade.
Sales do not seem to have been negatively impacted either by recent changes to the lotto’s playing format, which saw ticket prices increased by 50 cent per line and an additional two numbers added to the original 45-number matrix.
The changes are designed to deliver bigger jackpots, which typically drag in more players.
Similar changes, albeit with the addition of 10 new numbers, introduced by PLI’s sister company in the UK, Camelot, have backfired spectacularly, alienating punters and triggering a fall-off in sales.
The jump in Irish lotto sales also saw PLI’s operating profit rise by 121 per cent to €16.4 million last year.
"The completion of our second full year of trading has seen a significant and positive return to sustainable and responsible growth for the National Lottery," PLI chief executive Dermot Griffin said.
“The strategy which began with transition to the new license in 2014 is now seeing the benefits of the large-scale investment in our National Lottery infrastructure,” he said.
“This is delivering prizes to our players and most importantly securing much needed funds for deserving good causes across Ireland – a responsibility we take very seriously,” Mr Griffin said.
A 20-year licence to operate the Irish lottery was sold to PLI, which is owned by Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, in 2014 for €405 million.