The Irish Lotto Players Gave Up €17 Million in Free Money Last Year

Premier Lotteries Ireland added €17 million (US$17.7 million) in unexpected revenue to its accounts last year. That’s the amount that some lottery winners didn’t claim in time, allowing the funds to return to the lottery operator.

Irish Lotto
Irish Lotto
An Irish Lotto ticket for a recent draw. Millions of dollars went unclaimed last year in the lottery. (Image:

Most people play the lottery with the expectation that, should they win, they will have some extra spending money. However, there are apparently those who don’t actually want the cash. The Irish Mirror reports that €17 million (US$17.7 million) in lottery winnings went unclaimed last year.

That’s a lot of money that some lucky individuals lost as the deadline for making claims expired. However, it’s not the first time. Winners gave up a similar amount the previous year, as well.

Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

Overall, Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI) has been able to retain hundreds of millions of dollars due to unclaimed wins. In 2015, it kept €20 million (US$20.8 million) and in 2016, it added €16 million (US$16.65 million).

A year later, another €16 million went unclaimed, and consumers left €19 million (US$19.77 million) on the table in 2018. Lottery winners lost that same amount in 2019 after not claiming their prizes.

In total, since 2015, the lottery operator has kept €124 million (US$129.06 million) in unclaimed winnings. That’s a lot of money, and questions about how PLI spends it are beginning to appear.

PLI’s licensing agreement with Ireland stipulates that the operator must use unclaimed winnings to promote the National Lottery. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath, explains that the money is to be used for “incremental marketing and advertising.”

The operator is also to use a percentage of the unclaimed funds for “special draws,” and to increase the prize amounts on certain lottery options. However, McGrath points out that it’s unclear how much the PLI will spend on each.

Mum’s The Word

The lack of clarity is because the operator doesn’t have to say how much it will spend. Although its contract requires it to spend the money on National Lottery activity, PLI doesn’t reveal the figures because they are “commercially sensitive” under the agreement.

Not even the lottery regulator can force PLI’s hand. The regulator must have permission from the operator to release the data. But McGrath stated that PLI has not given its consent.

Last December, John McGuinness, the chair of the Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and Taoiseach Committee, stated that PLI spent €90 million (US$93.65 million) to promote itself and the lottery. That figure covers the period from 2015 to 2020.

Based on the annual figures for the unclaimed amounts, that leaves around €17 million (US$17.69 million) left over. How this money was used isn’t clear.

McGuinness believes there is a “lack of clarity and transparency around the National Lottery’s operations.” As such, it’s likely that a legislative push is coming to change the rules.

Ireland is transforming its gaming industry. With the increased attention it is receiving, now is the time to drum up support for additional reforms.

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