National Lottery (Protection Of Central Fund) Bill 2018: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to protect the Central Fund of the National Lottery established under section 8 of the National Lottery Act 1986 and section 44 of the National Lottery Act 2013 by amending the Betting Acts 1931 to 2015 by introducing a condition on certain licences granted under the Betting Acts 1931 to 2015.

Members of the House will be aware that in 1986, the Oireachtas established the national lottery in legislation enacted that year. There may have been some opposition at the time to the State putting into place a lottery which was a form of gambling. Part of the reason it was supported by the Oireachtas and by the public back then was because the legislation was clear in providing that significant amounts of money would be available for what was referred to as "good causes". In many respects, the national lottery replicated the good parts of the Irish hospitals sweepstakes that operated in Ireland from 1930 until the 1980s and which donated much money to public hospitals in Ireland.

The legislation introduced in 1986 contained a specific provision ensuring that good causes would be met and money would be available for those good causes. We know, and the Government will be well aware, that the good causes are established in the legislation. It allows the Government to make disbursements to certain areas specified in the legislation. Money can be allocated to sport and recreation, national culture and heritage, the arts, the health of the community, youth welfare and amenities, the natural environment and such other objectives as the Government may determine from time to time. Amending legislation was introduced in 2013. Section 40 of that legislation provided that 50% of the moneys collected by the national lottery had to be available for prize money. It also provided in section 41 that the good cause fund, as it was then called, should be available and have a statutory basis. At present 28% of the moneys received by the national lottery are devoted to these good causes.

In practical terms, that means every year approximately €225 million is available for good causes. It is not something that is just available in an individual year. Over the past 30 years or so, many good projects in this country have been funded by the national lottery. The reason this legislation is being introduced is to try to protect the good cause fund. A number of unregulated offshore companies are now offering bets on the national lottery. If the amount of money collected by the national lottery decreases, so does the amount of money available for the good cause fund. There are approximately 15 bet-on-lottery operators operating in the Irish market and it is likely this number will increase. These operators allow people to bet on the six numbers that may be drawn out by the national lottery instead of purchasing a ticket.

People are entitled to bet on things but the effect is that the amount of money being received by the national lottery declines and consequently, the amount of good cause money available decreases also. This legislation proposes to put in a particular condition in respect of the Betting Acts 1931 to 2015. The Bill seeks to overcome the threat to the fund by prohibiting operators from taking bets on lottery products. Such a prohibition is proportionate and reasonable in light of the public interest in preserving and protecting the fund. The Bill proposes to insert a condition that will attach to a bookmaker licence, or a remote bookmaker licence, requiring that all such licences contain a condition that such a licence cannot include an entitlement to bet on the outcome of any lottery game under the National Lottery Acts operated within or outside the State.

I am fully aware that at present, the national lottery, like the old Irish hospital sweepstakes, is run by a private company. It is, however, different to other forms of gambling and lottery since it was established by the Oireachtas for the purpose of the public benefit. The good cause fund, which produces 28% of all moneys taken in by the lottery, is useful and for the public benefit. It is appropriate, therefore, that we deal with the threat to the moneys raised by the national lottery. We know from other jurisdictions, such as Australia, that the amount of funds available has decreased because of the operations of these unregulated offshore operators that allow betting on the outcome of the lottery. As this legislation is to prohibit that, I seek leave to introduce it.

Is the Bill being opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.