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The new Lotto operators are accused of making 'savings and shavings' on the draw

The National Lottery’s reputation is at stake after last month’s first-ever failure.

Image: Mac Innes Photography

Updated 5.25

THE NEW NATIONAL Lottery operator has been accused of making “savings and shavings” to recoup some of its massive outlay to buy the licence.

Both Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI), which won the licence for the lottery last year, and the National Lottery Regulator have been hauled before the Oireachtas to explain problems with the troubled lottery system.

The lotto draw had to be cancelled last month for the first time in its history because of issues with ticketing machines.

Although that draw went ahead the following day, a separate glitch a number of weeks later caused more problems for newsagents trying to sell tickets.

But Retail Grocery Dairy & Allied Trades Association (RGDATA) director-general Tara Buckley said issues with National Lottery machines were already starting to emerge late last year – well before the recent outages.

“However the scale of the problems that have emerged since have been significant and the initial response … was poor,” she told the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform.

The National Lottery seemed to me more interested in denying the problems and shooting the messenger.”

Buckley Tara Buckley before the Oireachtas committee today Source: Oireachtas.ie

Rumours of price rises

Buckley said there were rumours within the industry that PLI was going to add numbers to its draw and raise ticket prices to try and make the lottery more profitable.

PLI, which is backed by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and An Post among others, paid €405 million for its 20-year licence.

Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association chief executive Vincent Jennings said retailers’ biggest concerns were that “savings have been made and shavings have been made” in the lottery’s systems and technical support.

Buckley said problems that had emerged in the new lottery system so far included machines freezing, malfunctioning scanners and flawed scratch cards.

“It is in everyone’s interests that the National Lottery is a success and works,” she said.

I think a bit of work needs to be done to rebuild the (customer) confidence.”

National Lottery Machines Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

PLI chief executive Dermot Griffin wouldn’t rule out a price hike or increasing numbers in the lottery draw, but he said the company was focussed on its “transition programme” for now.

He also denied there had been major problems with the new operator’s systems since it had taken over the licence.

“This was the biggest technological rollout in National Lottery history and in Irish retail ever,” he said.

‘A popular national institution’

In an earlier statement, Finance Committee chair Liam Twomey said: “The National Lottery is a popular national institution which also makes an important contribution to social projects nationwide.”

Consequently, the reputational damage it has suffered as a result of recent technological faults is of concern to the committee.

The concern for the lotto’s workings follows similar sentiments expressed by Fine Gael Senator Paul Coghlan who said the problems could drive people online creating ‘Lotto junkies’.

Additional reporting Peter Bodkin

First published 6.09am

Read: Lotto cancelled until tomorrow after lottery machines go on the blink >

Read: It can happen! Glitch-delayed €10m Lotto draw was won using family birthdays >

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Rónán Duffy

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