national lottery

National Lottery (Ireland)

The National Lottery (An Crannchur Náisiúnta) is the nationwide lottery that was created in the Republic of Ireland by the National Lottery Act, 1986, for the purpose of raising funds for deserving causes. Operated by the An Post National Lottery Company on behalf of the Minister for Finance, the National Lottery commenced gaming operations on 23 March 1987. It currently offers a range of products that includes lottery drawings, instant scratchcard games, TV bingo, and popular televised game shows. In 2007, 3,623 retail agents sold National Lottery tickets and scratchcards throughout the country, with two-thirds of all Irish adults reporting that they regularly play the games. Total sales for 2007 were €778.5 million.


Since its inception, the National Lottery has been administered by the An Post National Lottery Company (Comhlacht Chrannchur Náisiúnta An Post), a subsidiary of Ireland's semistate postal services provider An Post. The company holds a licence to operate the lottery on behalf of the Minister for Finance, who has ultimate authority in issuing or revoking the lottery licence, in overseeing gaming operations, and in distributing the lottery's proceeds.

The National Lottery Act, 1986, stipulates that the lottery licence must be reissued under a competitive-bid process at least once every ten years. The current licence was granted to An Post National Lottery Company on 26 June 2001, to cover the period from 1 January 2002 until 31 December 2008. In 2006, then–Minister for Finance Brian Cowen extended the licence for a further two years, until 31 December 2010. The government will invite bids for a new licence to take effect on 1 January 2011.

The National Lottery's online and instant-ticket services are currently provided by a contractor, GTECH Ireland, a wholly owned subsidiary of GTECH Corp.


Proceeds from the National Lottery are paid into the National Lottery Fund, an account kept at the Central Bank of Ireland, from which funds are distributed to private and public projects by the Minister for Finance. In 2007, the National Lottery raised €245.5 million for distribution to good causes, bringing the total raised since the inception of the lottery to €2.85 billion.

Total National Lottery sales during 2007 were €778.5 million, up 14.6 percent on the previous year's sales of €679.1 million. A total of €420.9 million was distributed in cash prizes. The lottery's operating costs were €112.1 million, including €48.4 million paid to retail agents in commission and bonuses.

Marketing and Branding

The National Lottery advertises heavily through Irish television, radio, and print media. In 2008, the company undertook a €6 million rebranding campaign, introducing a new signature color (lime green) and a new logo (a lime green–coloured star with a smiling face) with the goals of unifying its branding across its products and giving the National Lottery a more youthful and fun image. The new branding extends from the company's lottery machines and kiosks to its playslips, scratchcards, tickets, and website. The redesigned National Lottery website was launched on 20 August 2008, but the €1 million site was plagued with initial difficulties, including a 12-hour outage after the Millionaire Raffle results were announced on 26 August 2008, and a failure to register that the Lotto jackpot for 29 August 2008 had been won.


The National Lottery began gaming operations on 23 March 1987, when it launched its first scratchcards. Since then, the National Lottery has expanded its repertoire of games to include Lotto and Monday Million drawings, television bingo, televised game shows, a "Millionaire Raffle," and participation in the transnational EuroMillions lottery. Irish players can now enter up to eleven different lottery draw games each week: Monday Million on Mondays; Lotto, Lotto Plus 1, Lotto Plus 2, and Lotto 5-4-3-2-1 on Wednesdays and Saturdays; and EuroMillions and Plus on Fridays.

All cash prizes won in National Lottery games are paid as tax-free lump sums. All prizes in Monday Million, Lotto, and EuroMillions games must be claimed within 90 days of the applicable drawing dates. No minor under the age of eighteen years may purchase tickets for or claim prizes in any National Lottery game. All winners have the choice to remain anonymous.

Lotto Games

The inaugural drawing of Lotto, the National Lottery's flagship lottery game, was held on Saturday, 16 April 1988. Lotto has since produced two spinoff games, Lotto 5-4-3-2-1, which began in 1997, and Lotto Plus, which began in 2000. Lotto and Lotto Plus drawings have always been televised live by Ireland's public service broadcaster, Radio Telefís Éireann.

The minimum play in Lotto has always been two lines of six numbers. At a current cost of €1.50 per line, the minimum play in Lotto is €3 per ticket, which makes the game one of the world's most expensive lotteries to enter. By comparison, EuroMillions can be played for €2, the British National Lottery can be played for £1, and many lotteries in the United States, including Powerball, Hot Lotto, and Mega Millions, can be played for $1.

In addition to regular cash prizes, the National Lottery will occasionally announce special prizes for specific Lotto draws. These have included sports cars and Valentine's Day diamonds for match-5+bonus winners, €2,500 holiday vouchers for match-5 winners, and guaranteed prizes of €100 for match-4 winners. The National Lottery has also often added extra money to the Lotto jackpot on bank holidays and at Christmas.

Lotto 6/36: 1988–92

In Lotto's inaugural 6/36 format, six numbered balls were drawn from a lottery machine containing thirty-six balls. Players could win a share of a guaranteed £250,000 jackpot by matching all six numbers, or win smaller prizes by matching four or five numbers. If no winning ticket was sold, the jackpot rolled over for the next draw. Drawings continued each Saturday night until 30 May 1990, when the National Lottery introduced a midweek Lotto draw on Wednesday nights. Lotto draws have been held twice weekly since that time.

In a 6/36 lottery, the odds of matching all six numbers and winning the jackpot are 1 in 1,947,792, so at Lotto's initial cost of £0.50 per line, all possible combinations could be purchased for £973,896. This theoretically left Lotto vulnerable to a brute force attack—and when the jackpot reached £1.7 million for the May 1992 bank holiday drawing, a 28-member Dublin-based syndicate, organized and headed by Polish-Irish businessman Stefan Klincewicz, attempted to put theory into practice. Klincewicz's team had spent six months preparing by marking combinations on almost a quarter of a million paper playslips. In the days before the drawing they tried to buy up all possible combinations and thus win all possible prizes, including the jackpot.

The National Lottery tried to foil the plan by limiting the number of tickets any single machine could sell, and by turning off the terminals Klincewicz's ticket purchasers were known to be using heavily. Despite its efforts, the syndicate did manage to buy over 1.6 million combinations, spending an estimated £820,000 on tickets. It had the winning numbers on the night—but two other winning tickets were sold, so the syndicate could claim only one-third of the jackpot, or £568,682. Match-5 and match-4 prizes brought the syndicate's total winnings to approximately £1,166,000, representing a profit of around £310,000 before expenses.

Klincewicz later appeared on the television talk show Kenny Live and capitalized on his short-lived notoriety with a self-published lottery-system book entitled Win the Lotto.

Lotto 6/39: 1992–94

To prevent a scheme such as Klincewicz's from happening again, the National Lottery changed Lotto to a 6/39 game later in 1992, raising the jackpot odds to 1 in 3,262,623. The first Lotto 6/39 drawing was held on 22 August 1992. To compensate for the longer jackpot odds, the National Lottery doubled the starting jackpot to €500,000 and added a "bonus number" to the drawings. Whereas players previously needed either a match-6, match-5, or match-4 to win, prizes were now also awarded for match-5+bonus, match-4+bonus, and match-3+bonus.

Lotto 6/42: 1994–2006

Lotto became a 6/42 game on 24 September 1994, which made the jackpot odds 1 in 5,245,786. The National Lottery made this change to generate bigger rollover jackpots, partly so that people living near the border with Northern Ireland would not forsake Lotto when the 6/49 British National Lottery began operations less than two months later, on 14 November 1994. At the same time, the National Lottery introduced computer-generated "quick picks" as an alternative to marking numbers on paper playslips. Some retailers now only offer the quick-pick option.

For draws beginning on 26 September 1998, the National Lottery increased the cost of a line of Lotto from £0.50 to £0.75. At this time it also doubled the game's starting jackpot to £1 million and increased most of the game's smaller prizes by 50 percent.

With the introduction of the euro currency on 1 January 2002, the cost of a line of Lotto became €0.95, and the starting jackpot became €1.269 million (the euro equivalent of £1 million). For draws beginning 1 September 2002, the price of Lotto was rounded to €1 per line, and the starting jackpot was raised proportionally to €1.35 million.

Lotto 6/45: 2006–present

Core Lotto sales had steadily declined for the six consecutive years up to 2006, falling from €314.9 million in 2000 to €255.1 million in 2006. These declining sales partly reflected public dissatisfaction with the game during a time of economic boom: As property prices and the cost of living escalated rapidly, particularly in Dublin, the game's €1.35 million starting jackpot was no longer seen as offering the transformed lifestyle promoted in lottery advertising. In 2003, the largest Lotto jackpot was €5.6 million, and the jackpot was won 39 times out of the year's 105 draws. The year 2004 saw a largest jackpot of €6.9 million, but only seven other jackpots above €4 million. The year 2005 produced a jackpot of €7.4 million, but only seven other jackpot wins over €3 million. Given these small jackpots and relatively few rollovers, players were increasingly lured away from the game by the higher jackpots available in EuroMillions, sales of which rose by 145 percent in 2006.

In November 2006, the National Lottery changed Lotto to a 6/45 game. It also made the starting jackpot a guaranteed €2 million, increased the match-5+bonus prize to €25,000 (up from €12,000), introduced a €5 match-3 prize, and increased the price of a line of Lotto from €1 to €1.50, keeping the minimum play at two lines. The company said that the structural changes were designed to produce about twenty Lotto jackpots of €5 million and over each year, and at least one jackpot over €10 million. The first 6/45 draw was held on 4 November 2006. The impact of the changes was felt almost immediately when a jackpot of €7.5 million, the highest for many years, was produced less than two months after their introduction.

Although the Consumers Association of Ireland criticized the National Lottery for these changes, calling the 50 percent Lotto price increase "extraordinary," the restructuring of the game has been hugely successful. In 2007, sales of the core Lotto game rose 40.2 percent to €357.6 million, their largest ever single-year increase.

The current odds of winning the Lotto jackpot are 1 in 8,145,060. The odds of getting a match-5+bonus are 1 in 1,357,510; the odds of a match-5 are 1 in 35,724; the odds of a match 4+bonus are 1 in 14,290; the odds of a match-4 are 1 in 772; the odds of a match-3+bonus are 1 in 579; and the odds of a match-3 are 1 in 48.

Record Lotto Jackpots

The Lotto jackpot of £7,486,025 (€9,505,290) for the 21 November 1996 drawing set a record that stood for over ten years. But when the National Lottery switched Lotto to a 6/45 game in November 2006, the longer odds soon produced several jackpots in excess of €15 million. The game's largest ever jackpot of €18,963,441 was won on 28 June 2008 by a syndicate of sixteen work colleagues at the Dan Morrissey (Ireland) Ltd quarry and concrete plant in Bennekerry, Carlow. The second-largest Lotto jackpot of €16,185,749 was won on 28 July 2007 by the Cunningham family from Cork. The third-largest jackpot of €15,658,143 was won on 27 April 2008 by a family from Clondalkin, Dublin who chose to remain anonymous.

The largest unclaimed Lotto jackpot is £2,713,334 (€3,445,934). The one winning ticket for the 30 July 2001 drawing was sold in Coolock, Dublin, but its holder failed to come forward before the ticket expired at the close of business on 26 September 2001.

Lotto Plus

In 2000, the National Lottery introduced Lotto Plus as an add-on to the main Lotto game. For an extra £0.25 per line, players could enter their Lotto numbers in an additional 6/42 drawing for a fixed, non-rolling jackpot of £250,000. The first Lotto Plus drawing took place on 25 October 2000.

In 2002, the National Lottery added a second Lotto Plus drawing, renamed the drawings Lotto Plus 1 and Lotto Plus 2, and raised the cost of Lotto Plus to €0.50 per line. The jackpots were fixed at €300,000 and €200,000 respectively. The first drawings for Lotto Plus 1 and Lotto Plus 2 took place on 1 September 2002.

In November 2006, when Lotto adopted a 6/45 matrix, the National Lottery raised the Lotto Plus 1 and Lotto Plus 2 jackpots to €350,000 and €250,000 respectively. The cost of Lotto Plus remained at €0.50 per line.

As with the main Lotto game, Lotto Plus players can win smaller cash prizes for match-5+bonus, match-5, match-4+bonus, match-4, and match-3+bonus. For a match-3 in Lotto Plus 1, the winner receives a €3 scratchcard. A match-3 in Lotto Plus 2 wins a €1 scratchcard. The odds of winning these respective prizes are the same as for the main Lotto game.

Sales of Lotto Plus rose by 4.7 percent in 2007, to €101.1 million.

Lotto 5-4-3-2-1

Based around the main Lotto draw, Lotto 5-4-3-2-1 was introduced in February 1997. It allows players to win prizes by correctly matching one, two, three, four, or five of the drawn numbers. The more numbers players try to match, the greater the prize. Players may base their choices either on a six-number game (excluding the bonus number) or on a seven-number game (including the bonus number). Somewhat of a niche game, Lotto 5-4-3-2-1 accounted for €10.9 million in sales in 2007, down from €11.1 million the previous year.


The National Lottery joined the transnational EuroMillions lottery on 8 October 2004. Since then, two EuroMillions jackpots have been won in Ireland. On 31 July 2005, Dolores McNamara, a part-time cleaning lady from Limerick, won a record-breaking jackpot of €115,436,126 on a €2 quick-pick ticket purchased in a small convenience store half a mile from her home. McNamara remains the largest individual winner in European lottery history. On 4 July 2008, a couple who chose to remain anonymous won a jackpot of €15 million on a €9 quick-pick ticket purchased at a shop in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary.

On 17 November 2006, two Irish winners each received a 5 percent share of an unwon €183 million jackpot when it was divided under the draw's 12-week rollover rule among all twenty tickets bearing five numbers and one lucky star. The winners received €9.6 million each, a sum which included the standard EuroMillions match-5+1 prize. One winning ticket was purchased in Limerick and the other in Cork.

Irish sales of the core EuroMillions game fell from €145.3 million in 2006 to €118.7 million in 2007.


In June 2007, the National Lottery introduced "Plus," an Ireland-only addition to the main EuroMillions game. For an extra €1 per line, players can enter their five main EuroMillions numbers in an additional draw for a fixed, non-rolling prize of €500,000. Players can also win fixed prizes of €2,000 for a match-4 and €20 for a match-3. The first EuroMillions Plus drawing was held on 15 June 2007. The first person to collect the top prize from the new game was Mary Teresa Moore, a 70-year-old great-grandmother from County Limerick.

Sales of EuroMillions Plus were €16.4 million in 2007, reflecting figures from the game's introduction in June until the year's end.

Monday Million

On 23 September 2008 the National Lottery began selling tickets for Monday Million, a 6/39 weekly lottery drawing with a fixed, non-rolling jackpot of €1 million. Monday Million costs €1 per line to play, and the live drawing of the six winning numbers and bonus number takes place on the TV3 channel at approximately 20:28 every Monday night. The odds of matching the six main numbers and winning the €1 million top prize are 1 in 3,262,623, but the game also offers fixed prizes of €10,000 for a match-5+bonus (odds: 1 in 543,771), €500 for a match-5 (odds: 1 in 16,993), €100 for a match-4+bonus (odds: 1 in 6,797), €25 for a match-4 (odds: 1 in 439), €10 for a match-3+bonus (odds: 1 in 329), and a €3 scratchcard for a match-3 (odds: 1 in 33). The first Monday Million drawing was held on 29 September 2008, with one winner from Cootehill, County Cavan scooping the inaugural €1 million jackpot.

Although the Monday Million jackpot is not split among multiple winners, as is the case with Lotto and EuroMillions, the National Lottery has placed a fixed prize limit of €5 million on each Monday Million draw. In the event that the total value of all prizes for any one draw exceeds €5 million, the National Lottery will adjust the fixed prize values according to the formula A x 5,000,000/B, where A is the individual normal prize amount and B is the total prize cost for all categories, rounded to the nearest €1. (For example, if the total value of all prizes were to be €6,500,000, a top-prize winner would receive €1,000,000 x 5,000,000/6,500,000 = €769,231.)

Millionaire Raffle

In the summer of 2008, the National Lottery ran a "Millionaire Raffle." The lottery issued 300,000 tickets for the game, each of which bore a unique six-digit number in the range from 123,456 to 423,455. The €20 tickets went on sale on 29 May 2008, and sold out on 6 August 2008. The results were broadcast on RTÉ One television on 26 August 2008, during the Rose of Tralee festival. Two top prizes of €1 million each were awarded. The winners were Christina Buckley, a teacher at a Montessori preschool in Tralee, and a married couple from Clonmel, County Tipperary who chose to remain anonymous.

Five prizes of €100,000 were also awarded, with two winning tickets sold in Dublin, one in Cork, one in Limerick, and one in Enniscorthy. Other winners won 45 prizes of €10,000, 80 prizes of €5,000, 100 prizes of €1,000, and 300 prizes of €500. The full list of winning ticket numbers was published on the National Lottery's website.

During the television broadcast from Tralee, host Derek Mooney informed the audience that the winning tickets had actually been drawn earlier that day at the National Lottery headquarters in Dublin. This seeming lack of transparency caused controversy among the public, especially given the coincidence that one of the winning €1 million tickets had been sold in Tralee, where the results were announced. Players complained to the National Lottery about the lack of a live drawing, and national radio stations hosted animated discussions of the issue.

Despite receiving criticism over its handling of the inaugural Millionaire Raffle, the National Lottery has said it will consider holding a similar drawing in future.

Telly Bingo

Telly Bingo was introduced in September 1999. Players buy tickets with 24 randomly generated numbers, and can win prizes by matching the numbers drawn on a lunchtime TV show in a variety of patterns, with a prize of €10,000 for a full house. An additional €10,000 Snowball prize goes to someone who achieves a full house on or before the 45th number drawn; if not won, the Snowball prize rolls over to the next draw. Telly Bingo sales were €13.7 million in 2007, down from €14.4 million the previous year.

Instant Scratchcard Games

The National Lottery had a total of 31 scratchcard games on offer during 2007, ranging in price from €1 to €10, and offering instant cash prizes up to €100,000. Sales of instant scratchcard games rose slightly to €160.8 million in 2007, up from €157.4 million in 2006.

Game Shows

The National Lottery funds the prize money for two televised game shows, which are produced by Ireland's state broadcaster Radio Telefís Éireann. Contestants gain entry to the shows by getting three "lucky stars" on associated scratchcards and submitting them in special envelopes for televised drawings. Broadcast on Saturday nights on RTÉ One, the game shows are very popular, often featuring among the channel's top-rated programmes.

First broadcast in 1990, the National Lottery's flagship game show Winning Streak screens weekly between September and early June. A summer companion programme Fame & Fortune was launched in 1996 and ran through the months of June, July, and August until it was replaced in 2007 by The Trump Card. That programme received negative reviews and disappointing ratings, and was cancelled after its first season. A new summer programme, The Big Money Game, aired for the first time on 14 June 2008.

National Lottery game shows paid out over €14 million in prizes during 2007.

See also

  • Waking Ned (known as Waking Ned Devine in North America), a comedy film set in a tiny rural village and based on a fictitious winner of the Lotto.


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