The Government is considering selling off the profit-making National Lottery as part of its review of State assets.
Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Eamon Gilmore said the coalition had given a commitment to selling off €2 billion worth of assets, and that it was looking into what the sale of the National Lottery and other assets could amount to.
He said, “No decision has been made. It’s a case of the government looking at what the options are, and that’s one of the options.”
He told RTÉ's Morning Ireland current affairs radio program that were it to be sold, the National Lottery would be disposed of in such a way that the amount it contributes to the community, arts and sports initiatives would continue and be protected.
The National Lottery, popularly known as the Lotto, last year raised €770 million from the sales of lottery tickets and other products.
The Lotto is run by An Post (Post Office) and its license runs out this year. Earlier this year, the McCarthy Report recommended that the granting of a new seven-year license be the subject of an open competition.
The report was compiled by a review group chaired by economist Colm McCarthy to assess the potential for state asset disposal, and to compile a list of possible state assets to sell. The group was also charged with assessing how state assets could best be used to restore economic growth.
As state-owned companies go, the Lotto is a successful one. It is not a drain on the exchequer and it generates plenty of money for good causes.
It employs 100 people, and last year it gave away €420 million in prize money. Its costs were €108 million. That left it with €244 million to donate to good causes.
Ministers have not yet been presented with a recommendation on whether it should be sold, and that issue is likely to be some time off.
A key issue in any sale would be to determine how much profit could go to any new owner. The Department of Finance has declined to comment on the issue.
But the matter was raised last week at the government’s Economic Management Council, a high-powered group that comprises Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, Gilmore and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny.
The U.K. lottery is run by Camelot, which donates 40% of sales to good causes. Spain is in the process of selling its company, Loterias, which could raise ***7 billion for its cash-strapped government.
The Irish Lotto was launched in 1986 by former broadcaster Gay Byrne when the state gave An Post the license to run it for an annual management fee of €3 million.