Irish National Lottery penalised €150,000 for self-exclusion breach

Carol Boate, Regulator of the National Lottery, has revealed that a €150,000 penalty was levelled against Premier Lotteries Ireland during this past year following a breach of self-exclusion protocols. 

This failing was disclosed upon the publication of an annual report and accounts for the office of the Regulator of the National Lottery and the National Lottery Fund for the year ending December 31, 2022.

IT incident impacted 126 accounts

It was said that this stemmed from an IT incident concerning a number of permanently self-excluded player accounts being deleted in error, following which an investigation was launched.

Subsequently, it was uncovered that 126 accounts had been deleted in error during 2021. These, the report noted, should have been maintained in a status of permanent closure and prevented the owners from creating new accounts.

Sixteen of those affected players had succeeded in opening a new account, with ten purchasing tickets that came to a total of €3,292 in sales. Four also received direct marketing emails.

“The operator was not required under the licence to offer permanent self-exclusion to players but had introduced this new self-exclusion option in 2019 as a responsible gaming practice to prevent problem gaming,” it was noted in the report.

Boate noted that it was determined that a breach had occurred following careful consideration of the investigator’s report, with the €150,000 sum transferred to the Exchequer for use for good causes in 2023.

“Having offered a permanent self-exclusion facility as a responsible gaming measure, the operator was obliged to put in place the operational means to determine that persons seeking to purchase tickets had not previously opted for permanent self-exclusion,” she said.

As a result, the regulator also stressed hope that protocols put in place prevent any future failings, however, it was warned that further financial sanctions could follow should that not be the case.

“The effect of this statutory direction is (a) that the controls in place to detect and prevent any self-excluded player from opening another account have been enhanced and (b) the regulator is empowered to seek a financial sanction by the High Court on the operator for any future non-compliance with this direction which effectively creates a new sanction for future failures in self-exclusion controls.”

Performance of Irish Lottery 

The report also elaborated that this past year represented “a step change in the National Lottery’s online channel controls” via the introduction of age and identity verification, as well as “new and improved information for players to prevent problem gaming”.

Boate commented: “Mandatory verification of an account holder’s age and identity provides increased protection against underage play and players attempting to circumvent the spend limits or a self-exclusion period. 

“However, it also adds friction to setting up a new account or payment card and consequently contributed to lost sales in the year.”

In addition, it was also revealed that €257.9m was transferred from the National Lottery Fund to the Exchequer to support good causes, however, this represents a drop of 11 percentage points year-on-year. 

It was also reported that online sales had not grown relative to retail sales for the first time, with it said that consumers returned to retail and that the COVID-19 influenced boost had come to an end.

Sales dropped 16 per cent to €884.1m YoY, which was aligned to an unprecedented Lotto jackpot rollover that drove higher than normal sales, as well as the impact on all Irish household budgets of the rise in inflation in 2022. Sales did return to pre-pandemic levels of €884.5m.