Irish Legislature Questions Effectiveness of National Lottery Regulator

National Lottery Regulator Liam Sloyan appeared before the Legislature's joint committee on finance, public expenditure, and reform on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. Mr. Sloyan was summoned to appear because of concerns from TDs and Senators that he is not effectively regulating the lottery.

In 1986, the legislature passed The National Lottery Act creating the Irish National Lottery. When the lottery was created the legislature allocated its revenue to fund charitable efforts in the areas of:

health and welfare;
the arts and Irish national heritage;
sports and recreation;
environmental issues; and
the language of Ireland.

Charitable organizations are funded by offering players the opportunity to win money via traditional draw based games like EuroMillions, Lotto, Daily Million, instant win games, and Scratch Card games. Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI) won the contract to operate the lottery in 2014. PLI received a 20-year license.

In 2013 the legislature formed The office of the National Lottery Regulator. The regulator was established to protect consumers and enforce compliance with the laws governing the Lottery. At the March 7th committee hearing several TDs and Senators raised numerous concerns about Mr. Sloyan's regulation of the Lottery's operation.

In particular, the committee questioned Mr. Sloyan's efforts to protect players from problem gambling. The Committee's concerns stem from the growth of the availability of lottery games online and via mobile apps. The committee is concerned that this expanded availability creates the potential for problem gambling because players have constant uninterrupted access to gaming opportunities

The committee also asked Mr. Sloyan about the rapid expansion of PLI's game offerings. Some legislators also expressed concerns about the rising cost of lottery games.

Tara Buckley, who is Director General of RGData (independent retailers association), testified that her organization is also concerned about the growth in online gaming and the impact it has had on retailers and the community. Ms. Buckley also echoed the committee's concern about the impact online gaming may have on problem gamblers.

In addition, Ms. Buckley stated that Mr. Sloyan needs to better regulate the Lottery's online games and to better protect the interests of the community. Ms. Buckley also asked that Mr. Sloyan disclose what he is doing to monitor online lotto sites that have no links to licensed lotteries. Ms. Buckley was particularly concerned that players are using the unlicensed lotto sites without knowing that these sites do not have any obligation to contribute to charitable organizations.

Mr. Sloyan assured the committee that he is focused on monitoring and regulating online gambling. Mr. Sloyan indicated that he is satisfied with all of the new online games offered by PLI and that his office uses a number of different methods to make sure that a proposed new game is suitable. However, Mr. Sloyan acknowledged that it is relatively easy for players to establish multiple online accounts to play games under different user IDs.

Members of the committee did not seem to be satisfied with Mr. Sloyan's response. The committee was not satisfied with the fact that Mr. Sloyan could not explain how players could create multiple accounts. The committee also expressed displeasure that Mr. Sloyan was unwilling to discuss what he termed commercially sensitive information given that PLI essentially operates a monopoly.

Although the committee did not take any action or make any recommendations during the hearing, the National Lottery would appear to be an issue that they will continue to monitor.

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