National Lottery faces down complaints over ads touting community spending

The National Lottery was the target of an unusually high number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) after it launched a campaign to show where its revenue goes.

n the last three months the ASAI fielded 13 submissions – more than 40pc of all complaints – objecting to the campaign’s claim that 90pc of the money spent on lotto tickets and scratch cards went back into “the community”.

The complainants said there was a “lack of substantiation and transparency surrounding the statement” and that retailers, who receive 5pc of lottery money in the form of commissions, do not constitute part of “the community”.

Some also contended that money on lottery games did not come back to the community at all but instead went to the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund, the owner of lottery operator Premier Lotteries Ireland.

The ASAI failed to uphold the complaints, however, based on figures in the National Lottery’s audited accounts showing that just 10pc of revenues went to running costs and profit.

In its response, the National Lottery broke down its 2021 community spending into three categories: prizes (56pc), good causes (29pc) and retailer commission (5pc).

The advertising campaign in question, which ran in radio, television and online versions in the first half of the year, featured the 90pc claim itemised according to the same categories but based on 2020 figures.

Those numbers were broadly similar to 2021’s results, with slightly more money given out in prizes and slightly less going to good causes. The figures for retailer commission, and running costs and profits were the same.

“We welcome the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland’s (ASAI) latest report validating again the National Lottery’s 90% goes to the community advertising campaign,” a National Lottery spokesperson said.

“The National Lottery has always made iconic ads so our players get more prize money, our 5400 retail agents get more commission and thousands of charities, community groups and sporting bodies all around Ireland get more good causes funding.”

The campaign was launched after the National Lottery received sustained public criticism over a three-month lotto rollover where the big prize went unclaimed from September to December 2021.

The big prize was finally won in January by a punter in Castlebar, Co Mayo, after Premier Lotteries Ireland got regulatory permission to hold a must-win draw after no top prize had been awarded since June.

Premier Lotteries Ireland also agreed to hold a must-win draw in the future if there was no jackpot winner for five draws after a new jackpot cap has been reached.

The highly unusual circumstances whereby nobody won the high-profile draw for half a year prompted much media commentary and a statement in the Dáil from Fine Gael North Kildare TD Bernard Durkan.

Mr Durkan had called for the must-win draw to restore public confidence in the National Lottery, saying the six-month rollover was unsustainable.

The record-breaking jackpot of more than €19m created a surge in sales and generated roughly €180m in revenue, helping push total sales for National Lottery games beyond the €1bn mark for the first time.

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