Lotto game currently on six-month winless streak
By Kate Northrop
Over the last five years, Ireland's National Lottery has had over €85 million (US$95.8 million) in unclaimed prizes returned to its wallet.
Whether lottery winners lose their winning ticket, forget to claim their winnings, or were unaware of the win in the first place, those numbers sure do add up.
Each year, from 2016 through 2020, the Lottery saw at least €16.1 million (US$18.1 million) returned back to its bank account, with one year just a few million away from topping €19 million (US$21.4 million) in unclaimed prizes.
Unclaimed prize money is used to promote its games once the 90-day deadline for winning tickets expires, "which in turn will increase the funds raised for Good Causes," the Ireland Lottery's website states.
"Where prizes expire unclaimed, the License governing the operation of the Lottery provides that the relevant amounts are transferred to the Operator, for use either to top up prizes, or for additional marketing of the Lottery," a spokesman for the National Lottery told the Department of Public Expenditure.
Currently, lottery players in Ireland have been experiencing an astounding jackpot winner dry spell, with 50 rollovers since the last time it was won on June 5, nearly six months ago. The jackpot reached its cap at €19.06 million (US$22.1 million) on Sept. 29, where it will sit until someone matches all six winning numbers.
With so much attention focused on the long-running jackpot, it is hard to imagine that this will be one prize that goes unclaimed.
Players will get yet another chance to win the Lotto jackpot on the day of the next drawing — Wed., Dec. 1.
The drought of jackpot winners has prompted some to doubt the legitimacy of the Lotto draw, even so much as calling it "unwinnable." Players frustrated with the lack of a winner have suggested making the game easier to win, which could prevent jackpots from growing large, but potentially with the downside of hurting ticket sales. The odds of matching all six numbers between 1 and 47 are 1 in 10,737,573.
Last week, lawmaker Bernard Durkan advocated for an audit of the game's machinations, suggesting that there may be some flaws in the operation of the game.
"Players who have been buying their Lotto tickets twice a week since June are rightly fed up," Durkan said on Wednesday. "It's high time to see what's going on inside that machine — let's see what is making those balls spin."
Durkan contended that, rather than improving ticket sales, the rollovers are instead causing players to lose faith in the game, and thus hurting sales.
"We haven't seen a winner of the top prize in almost six months," he argued. "How long more will people continue to buy tickets if they don't believe they have a fair chance of winning?"
Readers should note that Ireland's Lotto game uses real lottery drawings — not computerized drawings — so Durkan's musings about the "spinning balls" are without evidence or precedence. It is more likely that the capped Lotto jackpot is keeping a lid on sales and preventing the kind of escalating sales that would increase the possibility of a winner.
To prevent these kinds of lengthy jackpot runs without a winner, lotteries would traditionally either make the game easier to win or get rid of the jackpot cap and allow overwhelming sales for a much bigger jackpot to make a winner likely.
Another possibility would be to institute a rule that would distribute the entirety of the jackpot to the second prize tier winners once a certain number of rollovers have occurred.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin responded to Durkan's call for a probe, subtly suggesting that forcing a lottery to produce a winner is out of the question.
"We all have high estimations of ourselves, but my capacity to produce a winner in the lottery, Deputy Durkan, I would have to concede," Matin replied. "I don't think it's within my grasp right now, but I wish you continued success in your efforts."
Forcing a jackpot winner based loosely on a subjective amount of time since the last winner could directly conflict with the completely random, luck-of-the-draw nature of a lottery, not to mention negate the fairness for those players purchasing tickets prior to the jackpot hitting the cap.
Even the National Lottery called the high number of rollovers "an unusual event" and "unprecedented," but current game rules do not allow for a jackpot winner to be assigned "at the moment." Additionally, lower prize tier winners continue to benefit since funds that would usually be added to the jackpot are instead distributed to the next prize tier at which there is a winner.
However, Durkan believes that the dry spell is evidence enough for the Lottery to provide more answers and transparency to the public.
"People have questions, and the regulator, who is responsible for the monitoring of the operation of the Lotto, must provide us with answers," Durkan continued. "The regulator must outline what steps can be taken to provide the public with clarity and reassurance."
Politician Paschal Donohoe voiced his agreement with Durkan's proposal, saying that he appreciates how he is addressing a "matter of public concern."
"I do however have a responsibility and role as a member of Cabinet to acknowledge that this is a body that is regulated and it will be up to the Regulator to engage with this — this is why we have a regulator," Donohoe said in a radio interview on Friday. "Deputy Durkan has raised a very important point, and maybe there might be an opportunity at the Oireachtas committee for Deputy Durkan to engage with the Regulator."
It is completely crazy that the lottery operator is allowed to keep unclaimed prize money. Such revenue should be allocated to local charities.
List of Irish National Lottery Unclaimed Prizes:
This is exactly why I only play by subscription, as low value prizes are automatically credited to my lottery subscription. I can't be bothered with paper tickets.
People who don't care enough to pick their lottery numbers following SCIENCE and the DATA...
unfortunately dont care enough to check their tickets to see if their numbers actually came out.
People who dont follow the SCIENCE and DATA are nothing better than a bunch of selfish science and math deniers.
People who were selfish enough to buy lottery tickets during a pandemic, are nothing but grandma murderers and dont deserve their jackpot winning anyway.
GOD is punishing these people with poverty.
It's Ireland, everybody's drunk over there.
They're not missing anything.
They don't even know they bought tickets.
..Yeah, but when they git sober and realize LOs took it back , they're gonna have a hellava FiGhT on their handz..!!
Imagine how many boxes ov "Lucky Charms" Cereal THAT'D buy..!