National Lottery sales rise to €805m with growth online

Last year proved a record year for prizes with 24 millionaires created

Lottery sales increased for the fourth year in a row to €805 million, although that figure was slightly held back by the lack of rolling jackpots.

More millionaires were created than ever, with 24 added in 2018, and more than €453 million in prizes paid out.

The franchise, which is run by Canadian-owned operator Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI), has grown the business 17 per cent since privatisation, and raised €860 million for good causes, including €228.5 million last year.

Online sales grew 20 per cent and now represent 7.7 per cent of the total at €61.8 million with about 102,000 people per month participating in the various games online.


Pádraig Ó Ríordáin, chairman of PLI, said the company has a good mix of retail and online and is “at the level we want to be at” in terms of its retail presence which comprises post offices and all major retailers.

The National Lottery was freed to trade online as part of the 2014 privatisation process, which resulted in the business being sold to Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, which owns PLI, for €405 million. Currently, Ontario owns an 80 per cent stake, An Post 10 per cent and An Post pension 10 per cent.

Previously, the business was restricted from advertising its online channel and players wishing to play via the internet were subject to a cumbersome registration process.

Sales of draw-based games fell almost 4 per cent to €537.3 million, again on account of fewer rolling jackpots, while scratch cards and interactive instant-win games proved more popular with sales growth of almost 11 per cent, representing €267.7 million.

Mr Ó Ríordáin said there aren’t likely to be any price rises this year.

In 2018, nearly 40 per cent of the adult population, about 1.3 million people, participated in the lotto every week.

Strategic review

The company is in the middle of a strategic review, looking mainly at the brand, as part of an agreement under its licence. Mr Ó Ríordáin said the company will continue to develop its products as part of its function to “generate money for good causes”, which various Government departments distribute. That may include looking at creating scratch cards specifically dedicated to a cause.

The company itself saw earnings fall by €7.1 million to €35.6 million after it increased investments including adding staff. Operating profits dipped more than 70 per cent to €5.1 million, with the fall attributable to an accounting change whereby it adjusted its approach to appreciation and amortisation in relation to its digital platform.

“The National Lottery is at the heart of Irish life. We are delighted that funds for good causes grew again this year to nearly €230 million, up from €188 million in 2015,” Mr Ó Ríordáin said.

In the coming year the company wants “lots of people to engage and spend small amounts each”. It added that online growth is important to bring the National Lottery to a new generation of adult participants.

Andrew Algeo is due to take over as the company's chief executive next month following the departure of long-standing boss Dermot Griffin, who announced his intention to step down earlier this year.

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business