7 December 2021
By Roger Jones
The Irish National Lottery started in 1988, and virtually from the beginning, bookmakers have been taking bets on what numbers will be drawn; however, they offer different odds compared with the official lottery.
Now, Irish lawmakers, with strong support from the country’s National Lottery operator, are proposing a new bill that will ban customers from buying fixed-odds tickets at the bookies. Their main argument is that they are seeking to protect the money that buying official lotto tickets provides for good causes.
It’s a valid point as nearly 30% of all ticket sales help fund sports, the arts, national culture and Irish heritage projects. In 2020 alone, more than €250 million was distributed, which is a significant sum for a country with a population of 6.9 million people.
Not Everyone is Happy
After several changes to the format, the current lotto draw is 6/47, which means the odds of hitting the jackpot are 1 in 10,737,573, and the current price is €2 per line.
Several lifelong players have dubbed this current format as the “unwinnable lotto” after a stretch of 46 draws (from the 9th of June 2021 to the 17th of November 2021) without a jackpot winner. During this unique occurrence, the jackpot reached €19,060,800 in September, when the decision was taken to cap it at this amount, which was heavily criticised as unfair.
Of course, bookmakers are up in arms about this new bill. They claim that it restricts competition, and the loss of revenue could potentially put jobs at risk. Ireland’s largest bookmaker, Paddy Power, is working hard lobbying their case, as are the Irish Bookmakers Association. It claims that the betting shops and associated websites offer a different product to the National Lottery.
The Bookmakers Association highlights that customers can choose their own stake, which can be much less or much more than the €2 per-line cost of a real ticket. Additionally, bookies let players choose how many numbers they want to bet on. For instance, at Paddy Power, you can bet on:
- 1 number = 6/1 payout
- 2 numbers = 60/1
- 3 numbers = 700/1
- 4 numbers = 7200/1
- 5 numbers = 130,000/1
A regular ticket from an official operator sees players choose 6 numbers, with the smallest payout being only €3 for matching 2 numbers plus the bonus number. Naturally, the allure of playing the official game is hitting the 7 or 8-figure jackpot, something that you don’t get at the bookies.
Can a compromise be reached?
Bookies offering the lotto dates back to its inception, so why make a song and dance about it now? Particularly in the midst of a mega rollover where people will be buying more official tickets in the hope of landing the big one.
An outright ban seems quite harsh under the circumstances, so perhaps there is room to meet in the middle. For instance, stop bookies from accepting bets on just one number or limiting the betting range between €1 and €3. Unusually, the odds are against the bookies with so many millions going to good causes, so we expect they will be the ones making the concessions if given the opportunity.