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Lottery Information

An Post National Lottery Company

An Post National Lottery Company (Irish Comhlacht Chrannchur Náisiúnta An Post) is the company which has the licence of "the National Lottery" (Irish: "an Crannchur Náisiúnta") of the Republic of Ireland. The company was founded by its parent company An Post under a licence issued under the National Lottery Act, 1986 by the Minister for Finance for a lottery. The running of the lottery games, is handled by a contractor, GTECH Ireland, a wholly-owned subsidiary of GTECH Corp, listed on New York Stock Exchange as GTK.

The ownership of the company is held between An Post (20%) and the Minister for Finance (80%). Ray Bates, who directed the National Lottery since its inception in 1987, announced his retirement from the company in October 2005. Bates stepped down as National Lottery Director in early 2006, and was succeeded by his former chief operating officer, Dermot Griffin.

Background

The Irish Sweepstakes and Rehab Lotteries also entered the tender process in 1986, but were unsuccessful. An Post obtained the licence and commenced operations in 1987. An Post has retained the licence in every bid process since then, and will retain the current licence until December 31, 2008 unless the Minister for Finance revokes the licence before that time.

Finances

The "National Lottery Fund" is an account kept at the Central Bank of Ireland. It is used to fufill the primary objective of the company, which is the funding of "good causes." The surplus is paid to the account annually, and the funds are distributed both to private and public projects by the Minister for Finance.

In 2005, the National Lottery raised €203.2 million (euro) for distribution by the government to good causes, bringing the total raised since the inception of the Lottery to €2.4 billion. Total sales during 2005 were €616.4 million, up 6.6% on 2004. A total of €324.8 million was distributed as cash prizes (this does not include the €115 million Euromillions prize won in Ireland in July 2005, which was funded from a central European pool).

The company's operating costs in 2005 represented 14.2% of sales, or €88.4 million, which includes €38.3 million paid to retail agents in commission and bonuses. The company employs 37 full-time staff in marketing and distribution, and 44 full-time staff in administration.

Games

The National Lottery commenced gaming operations on March 28, 1987 with scratchcards. Since then, it has expanded its games to include lottery drawings, television bingo, and television game shows. The Lotto family of games -- Lotto, Lotto Plus, and Lotto 5-4-3-2-1 -- accounted for 61% of sales in 2005. Instant scratchcard games accounted for 26% of sales.

Lotto

Lotto, the National Lottery's flagship game, began in April 1988 as a 6/36 lottery. On Saturday nights at 20:00, on live Radio Telefís Éireann television, six numbered balls would be drawn at random from a drum containing thirty-six balls. Players could win by matching four, five, or six of the drawn numbers. The odds of matching all six numbers and winning the jackpot were 1 in 1,947,792. If more than one ticket bore the winning combination, the jackpot was shared equally among winning tickets; if no winning ticket was sold, the jackpot rolled over for the next draw. In May 1990, the National Lottery introduced a midweek Lotto draw on Wednesdays at 20:00.

At an original cost of £0.50 Irish punt (€0.63 euro) for each six-number combination, one could cover all 1,947,792 possible combinations for £973,896 (€1,236,848). In May 1992, when the jackpot reached £1.7 million (€2.1 million), a twenty-eight-member Dublin-based syndicate, organized by 43-year-old half-Polish businessman Stefan Klincewicz, attempted to buy up all the possible combinations and thus guarantee a jackpot win. The National Lottery responded by introducing a limit on the number of tickets any machine could sell, and by switching off terminals Klincewicz's team of ticket purchasers had been using heavily. The syndicate went into the drawing holding 88% of the possible combinations. It did have the winning numbers on the night, but two other winning tickets were sold to non-syndicate players, so the syndicate took only one-third of the jackpot, or £568,682 (€722,226). Able to claim enough smaller match-5 and match-4 prizes to bring its total winnings to approximately £1,166,000 (€1,480,000), the syndicate made only a modest profit after expenses. Klincewicz appeared on the popular talk show Kenny Live and later cashed in on his shortlived notoriety with a popular self-published lottery-system book entitled Win the Lotto.

To prevent such a scheme from recurring, the National Lottery changed Lotto to a 6/39 game in August 1992, which raised the odds of hitting the jackpot to 1 in 3,262,623. To compensate for these longer jackpot odds, it added a "bonus number" to the drawings, which added more smaller prizes to the game. In September 1994, Lotto became a 6/42 game, further increasing the jackpot odds to 1 in 5,245,786. The National Lottery made this change to generate bigger rollover jackpots, partly so that people in border counties with Northern Ireland would not forsake Lotto after the British National Lottery started up in November 1994 with significantly higher jackpots. At this time, the National Lottery also introduced computer-generated random "quick picks" (previously, players could only mark their chosen numbers on paper playslips). Some smaller retailers now only offer the "quick pick" option.

In 1998, the cost of Lotto rose from £0.50 to £0.75 per line of six numbers. With the introduction of the new euro currency on January 1, 2002, the cost became €0.95, and was shortly thereafter rounded to €1. Lotto players must play at least two lines of six numbers, making the minimum Lotto wager €2. Tickets may be purchased for up to eight draws in advance.

The Lotto jackpot now starts at €1.35 million and rolls over until won. Smaller prizes are awarded for match 5+bonus, match 5, match 4+bonus, match 4, and match 3+bonus. Seasonal promotions are also held: In 2005, these included €50,000 worth of diamonds as an extra prize for a match 5+bonus on Valentine's Day; Jaguar and Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet cars as extra match 5+bonus prizes on the June bank holiday and Halloween weekends respectively; €1 million added to the jackpot at Easter; and a doubling of match-5 prizes at Christmas. Winners have ninety days after the drawing date to claim prizes. All cash winnings are paid as tax-free lump sums.

In November 1996, the Lotto's largest ever jackpot of £7,486,025 (€9,507,251) was split between two winning tickets, one bought by Mary and Paddy Kelly from Bailieborough in County Cavan, and the other by an anonymous seven-member syndicate from County Meath. The largest Lotto prize claimed by a single individual is £6,216,048 (€7,894,381), which was won in May 1997. The winner, a married County Cork farmer in his late thirties, requested that the media not publish his name.

The largest unclaimed Lotto jackpot is £2,713,334 (€3,445,934). The one winning ticket for the June 30, 2001 drawing was sold in Coolock, Dublin, but its holder failed to come forward before the ticket expired at the close of business on September 26, 2001.

Sales of Lotto were €262.6 million in 2005. €131.3 million was paid out in prize money.

Lotto Plus

In October 2000, the National Lottery introduced Lotto Plus. For an extra £0.25 per line, players could enter their main Lotto numbers in a second 6/42 "Lotto Plus" drawing for a smaller fixed jackpot of £250,000 (€317,500). In 2002, a third 6/42 drawing was added, and the two extra drawings were renamed Lotto Plus 1 and Lotto Plus 2. An additional €0.50 per play panel enters a regular Lotto ticket in both Lotto Plus drawings. Fixed at €300,000 and €200,000 respectively, the jackpots for Lotto Plus 1 and Lotto Plus 2 do not roll over, but are also not split among multiple winners. As with the main Lotto game, players can win smaller prizes for match 5+bonus, match 5, match 4+bonus, match 4, and match 3+bonus. A match 3 in Lotto Plus 1 entitles the winner either to a €2 scratchcard or to a Euromillions ticket. Sales of Lotto Plus were €103.6 million in 2005. Approximately 80% of Lotto players now choose the additional Lotto Plus option.

Lotto 5-4-3-2-1

Based around the main Lotto draw, Lotto 5-4-3-2-1 allows players to win prizes by correctly matching one, two, three, four, or five of the drawn numbers. The more numbers players try to match, the greater the prize. Players may base their choices either on a six-number game (excluding the bonus number) or on a seven-number game (including the bonus number). Somewhat of a niche game, Lotto 5-4-3-2-1 accounted for €11 million in sales in 2005.

Euromillions

The National Lottery has participated in the transnational Euromillions lottery since October 2004. The game was slow to take off in Ireland, but Euromillions sales increased by almost 40% in the country after Limerick woman Dolores McNamara scooped a record jackpot of over €115 million in July 2005. Sales of Euromillions reached €59.1 million in 2005. As the popularity of Euromillions has increased, sales of Lotto have declined by over 6%.

A Euromillions ticket costs €2 euro. Tickets may be purchased in advance for up to 4 draws.

Telly Bingo

Telly Bingo players buy tickets with 24 randomly generated numbers, and can win prizes by matching the numbers drawn on a lunchtime TV show in a variety of patterns, with a prize of €10,000 going for a full house. An additional €10,000 Snowball prize goes to someone who achieves a full house on or before the 45th number drawn; if not won, the Snowball prize rolls over to the next draw. Telly Bingo sales amounted to €18 million in 2005.

Instant Scratchcard Games

The National Lottery had a total of 21 scratchcard games on offer during 2005, ranging in price from €1 to €5, and offering instant cash prizes up to €25,000. Total sales of instant games amounted to €160.6 million in this year. €95.4 million was paid out in prizes.

Game Shows

The National Lottery funds two televised game shows: Winning Streak and Fame & Fortune. These game shows paid out a total of €9.9 million in prizes during 2005.

Advertising

In February 2006, the National Lottery awarded advertising contracts worth €20 million to Dublin advertising agencies. Lottery critics allege that its excessive promotion preys unfairly upon the poor and the elderly. The Lotto games were known for their original advertising slogan, "Play Lotto, and the sky's the limit," which has now been replaced by the more succinct "It could be you."

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