Dept Pours Cold Water On Senator’s ‘ Efforts To Amend National Lottery Act

A private members bill, in the names of three Fine Gael senators, Ward, Currie and Carrigy was debated at Committee stage this week and, to the surprise of those present, was not met with the same level of enthusiasm from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform that had previously been publicly iterated by both the Minister in charge of regulatory matters pertaining to The National Lottery, Michael McGrath TD and the Minister for state or Ossian Smyth TD.

Minister Smyth had been sent into the Senate with the hapless task of pouring cold water on the efforts expended by Senator Barry Ward.

This Bill was attempting to close off the very lucrative access that Irish and overseas bookmakers have availed of for many years in offering various bets on the outcomes of the National Lottery draws. The National Lottery is obliged  under its license to forward an agreed percentage of its net sales to go to Good Causes.

It was argued by the proponents of the Bill that this amount would be greater if the bookmakers were no longer permitted to use National Lottery property in their gambling offerings.  Although the actual amount gambled in Ireland in bookmakers’ shops on lottery products is subject to wild and wide speculation, it is somewhere more than €60 million but less than €250 million.

The Department had originally suggested that they supported the Bill and did so in Second Stage and would be happy to provide drafting amendments that would tidy up the Bill. However, in a complete turnaround on Tuesday night they provided several excuses as to why they could not continue to support the Bill unless there were a number of changes, and even if that were done, they would also have to wait for the Indecon report.

In short, the bookies lobby “knobbled” the Bill, aided by a number of Fianna Fáil Senators who had spoken on behalf of the Bookmakers industry in previous Debates of the Bill.

Senator Ward ,in a well-reasoned and devastatingly accurate rebuttal of Minister Smyth’s rationale managed to expose the frailty of the Department’s case .

The Bill will go to the Dáil for Debate but unless there is a serious change of heart from Minister Mc Grath’s  Department , it is unlikely to be enacted.

The old National Lottery should have sought protection from the Courts once the bookies started offering bets on the outcome of Lotto, it’s a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

In the UK, there is a ban on bookies offering any kind of bet on National Lottery games, their proprietorial rights are protected.