Executives at the National Lottery want to stop any future quirks of fate causing seemingly endless Lotto jackpot rollovers by changing the rules to allow for must-win draws after a certain period of time.
Premier Lotteries Ireland chief executive Andrew Algeo is to appear before the Oireachtas finance committee on Wednesday, where he is set to call for regulatory approval for changes that will ensure "an improbably long wait for a capped jackpot win cannot occur again".
In his submission for the committee, he says the company was proposing that a draw would have to be won, if not by someone who matched all six numbers then by someone who matched five, after a certain period of time elapsing without the jackpot being claimed. This “would also allow us to provide certainty to Lotto players, as to the latest date on which this record €19 million jackpot will be won by”.
The last Lotto jackpot was won in early June, and the top prize has been capped at just over €19 million since October.
The EuroMillions jackpot is capped once it reaches €190 million and after it stays at its maximum allowed limit on five consecutive occasions, it must be won. If no player matches the five numbers from the main panel plus an additional two so-called Lucky Star numbers – which is the normal requirement for winning the EuroMillions jackpot – it is shared at the next prize tier at which there are winners. That has only happened once in the EuroMillions's 20-year history.
Mr Algeo will tell TDs and Senators on the committee that it is “highly unusual” that the Lotto jackpot would remain unclaimed for more than six months.
“Given the tickets purchased since early June, the chances are akin to rolling a die 37 times without the number six arising,” he will say.
“Then again it was somewhat unusual that we had Lotto jackpot winners on three consecutive Saturdays just before this long roll. Variation in jackpot roll lengths occur because each lottery draw is a pure game of chance without memory.”
He stresses that it is in the National Lottery’s interest that the jackpot was seen as “both aspirational and possible” and he said that meant jackpots would have to be “large enough and won frequently enough”.
The deputy regulator of the National Lottery, Derek Donohoe, is to tell the committee that the Lotto was "operating in line with the game rules", stressing there are "no regulatory issues" calling the draw into question.
In his submission Mr Donohoe notes that "independent observers from KPMG attend every Lotto draw".
“The current extended period without a jackpot win is unusual in the history of the game, but it is not unusual in the history of lotteries. Statistically unlikely events are part of the nature of games of chance and lotteries,” he adds.