Bookmakers and other commercial gambling operations must be prevented from "piggybacking" on and "profiteering" from the National Lottery by allowing bets on the outcome of its draws, the Seanad has heard.
Fine Gael Senator Barry Ward told the Seanad that approximately 28 cent of every €1 spent on the National Lottery goes to good causes, while there are also protections in place to prevent individual players from spending more than a certain amount each day or gambling after a certain time on the National Lottery.
A maximum spend of €90 a day is permitted with no gambling allowed after 10pm under National Lottery protocols, but there are no such restrictions for commercial gambling operations, he said, which can operate online 24 hours a day.
Mr Ward pointed out that some operators in the “unregulated gambling and bookmaking industry now use National Lottery products to piggyback for the purposes of allowing people to bet on the outcome of the National Lottery [draws]”, without making any “altruistic contribution”.
The gambling industry in Ireland is worth an estimated €6 billion to €8 billion annually and legislation to regulate and control the sector is long awaited. A Bill to establish a regulator for the sector is due at the end of the year.
Mr Ward has published his private member’s National Lottery (Amendment) Bill, which prohibits commercial outfits from allowing customers to bet on the results of National Lottery draws and provides for fines of up to €100,000 for breaches.
The barrister said that “we must prevent profiteering by private gambling organisations who piggyback on the National Lottery infrastructure without providing the same social dividend to the people of Ireland.
“While the National Lottery funds innovation, community organisations and local projects throughout this country, private bookmakers make no such altruistic contribution.
“Important national and local funding is provided by the National Lottery to sports, arts and culture, health and wellbeing, heritage, community and youth organisations.”
The former Fine Gael legal adviser said: “It makes no sense to me that we should continue to allow those private organisations to profit from the Lotto and other products that are put in place by the National Lottery.”
He said his legislation will “make it an offence for a profit-driven bookmaker to hitch a free ride with the licensed and regulated National Lottery”.
The Bill to amend the National Lottery Act, 2013, would allow the prosecution of corporate entities, as well as individuals.