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National Lottery sign on its office in Dublin. Alamy Stock Photo

Lottery to change adverts after complaint about unclaimed prizes 'going back to the community'

In a new decision, the advertising watchdog said the inclusion of information about how unclaimed prize money is reinvested would “add clarity” for customers.

THE NATIONAL LOTTERY is to include additional information in future advertising about unclaimed prize money, following a complaint from a member of the public over a claim that 90% of the company’s money is invested in community groups.

In a decision published today, the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) said that the inclusion of information about how unclaimed prize money is reinvested would “add clarity” for customers.

A member of the public had complained about a lotto advert which said 90% of the company’s money “goes back into the community”, because the claim doesn’t account for unclaimed prize money.

The complaint took issue with the advertising as unclaimed prize money – which has amounted to more than €100m over the past decade – may be diverted to marketing and advertising for the company. 

This diversion of unclaimed prize money is required under the National Lottery’s license for operating draws.

While the ASAI didn’t uphold the complaint, it also didn’t reject it. It has agreed with the Lotto that the company has to include a statement in future adverts about unclaimed prize money.

Its complaints committee noted that the claim in the lotto’s advertising campaign was that 90% its funds goes back into the community, which itself was based on its financial accounts for the year 2020.

This led to the claim of “58% prizes, 27% good causes, 5% retailer commission” by the National Lottery in a TV advertisement.

However, the complainant alleged to the watchdog that this was misleading because the 90% included unclaimed prize money that was redistributed back into advertising and incremental marketing for the National Lottery, and therefore not “back into the community”.

The National Lottery told the ASAI that they believed the advertisement was accurate, independently verified, and was compliant with the advertising code.

But, citing an “abundance of caution”, the National Lottery agreed to “qualify any future statements in any similar advertising campaign to ensure there was no opportunity for misinterpretation” as a result.

The Lottery added that the advertisement had already run its course and was no longer broadcast.

In its decision, the ASAI’s complaints committee noted that under the terms of the lottery licence, unclaimed prize money should be used “solely” for the promotion of the National Lottery, with the proviso that the promotion includes the funding of special draws and additional top-up prizes. It may include incremental marketing and advertising of the National Lottery and some lottery competitions.

The ASAI added:

The committee considered that including information in advertising, where appropriate, about the reinvestment of unclaimed prize money would add clarity for consumers and welcomed the advertisers’ proposal to include a qualification, about the reinvestment of unclaimed prize money in future similar advertising.

In future, where similar claims are made on the percentage of money that goes back to the community, a “qualification should be included to state that the prize money referred to may include unclaimed prizes which could be returned to the advertisers”, the ASAI added.

According to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, between 2015-2021 just over €124 million in respect of expired unclaimed prizes had been forfeited in favour of the National Lottery operator.

Almost €122 million of the money was used for the promotion of the National Lottery and its games. Of this, 98% had been spend on incremental marketing with the remaining 2% spent on top-up prizes.

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