Prizes and cash for good causes dropped €112m in recession
NATIONAL Lottery prize funds and grants for good causes dropped by more than €113m over five years, the Herald can reveal.
While the economic crash was blamed for the plummeting of cash available for jackpots and good causes, Lotto bosses argue that controversial price hikes in tickets from next month will see prizes and donations grow.
Figures for the drop in the prize funds and cash for good causes were included on documents released by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (PER).
READ MORE: Lotto chiefs opposed idea to tax winners
The overall prize pot stood at €438m in 2009, but by 2013 that figure stood at €383m - a decline of €55m.
Similarly, €263.5m was distributed in Lotto grants to good causes - such as youth projects and sports clubs - in 2009.
But this figure dropped to €205m in 2013.
The declines come to a combined €113.5m.
The drop in prize funds and grant cash came in the years before the National Lottery was taken over by private company Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI), which paid more than €400m to become the operator.
"The value of National Lottery prizes paid to our players is directly related to the value of tickets sold," a spokeswoman said.
Ticket sales declined between 2009 and 2013 - a factor she attributed to the economic crash. This slump was similar to that experienced by other businesses.
"While National Lottery annual sales declined from 2009 to 2013 - similar to many sectors of the Irish economy, in contrast - the proportion of sales returned in prizes actually increased overall - rising from 53.7pc in 2009 to 56pc in 2013," the spokeswoman said,
"Since PLI took over as operator on November 30, 2014, sales are meeting expectations," she added.
The company said that ticket price increases announced last week will increase the prize money and cash given to worthy causes.
On Friday, the National Lottery announced that the minimum cost of tickets is being hiked by €1 and that two extra numbers are being added to the draw, lengthening the odds of winning the jackpot to 10.7 million to one.
The Lotto operators claimed the game will be "more exciting and engaging to players".
"Bigger Better Lotto will deliver a more exciting game and bigger jackpots for our players, which will generate more funds for good causes," said chief executive Dermot Griffin.
The new game will "drive sales and, in turn, create increased funds for good causes," a PLI statement read.
"To date, the National Lottery has raised over €4.5bn for good causes across Ireland, with €120m raised since Premier Lotteries Ireland took over operations," the statement continued.
The Herald asked the Lotto operators if the price increase was due to the privatisation of the game.
"This is the first price increase in our Lotto game in nine years - since 2006," said Mr Griffin, who has been Lotto chief since 2005 and has stayed in the role post privatisation.
"A game change has been considered for some time. However, it was postponed due to the process of selling the National Lottery license and the transition to the new operator.
"The new price point will also allow the National Lottery to continue to invest in the development and enhancement of the player's experience which is part of ensuring that the National Lottery remains a modern, world-class lottery for the people of Ireland, raising important funds for good causes, on behalf of Government," he said.
The changes will take effect from Thursday, September 3.
Retailers have welcomed the decision to up the price in the hope that bigger jackpots would attract more customers.
Meanwhile, some charities, including the Jack and Jill Foundation, expressed concern that the changes would see less money raised for their organisations if people were discouraged from playing.
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