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 Header Item Departmental Staff (Continued)
 Header Item Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
 Header Item National Lottery Regulator

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe] The view of my official, whom I have met to discuss this matter, is that the issue was being raised with the Department of Health. He could see this was being reported and he felt it was being dealt with. I have already outlined the changes I want to make to help to ensure the issues we have experienced with huge projects like the national children's hospital are not repeated.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Nobody is suggesting that the Minister or the civil servants in his Department should micromanage every element of a project in another Department because that is what the other Department is for. Given that a world-level overrun is happening in the case of the national children's hospital in Ireland, when does common sense click in? I would have expected that a senior civil servant would discuss this matter with others so that the children's hospital project would come to fruition and the taxpayers of Ireland, and their hard-earned money, would not be taken for a complete ride. The Minister has said he is happy with the arrangements that have led to this outcome. I think that happiness is misplaced. As there are so few people in his Department, I assume everybody pretty much knows everybody. I am sure lots of cups of coffee and tea are shared. The Minister needs to give serious consideration to why no one within his very small Department thought to say to him, at the time of the budget or at some other time, that there was a serious problem with costs.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I never said I was happy with the processes that led to this outcome. I said I was satisfied with the operation of the circular. The Deputy either misinterpreted me, or she deliberately attributed words to me that I did not say. It is up to her to decide which of those possibilities is the case. I never at any point said I was happy with the processes that have led to this. I have already outlined what I am going to do to change them. Work is under way to change them. I have said that the way in which this issue developed, particularly the latter phase of it, needs to change in the future and will change. The Deputy will never acknowledge that we get the majority of projects right. We will deliver three major transport projects on time and on track this year. We will deliver major projects like primary schools and primary care centres all over this country in the way the taxpayer wants. I am not looking to minimise in any way the anger and concern caused by the national children's hospital project. I will not have words attributed to me that I did not state.

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

National Lottery Regulator

 44. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe if he has received an opinion from the regulator of the national lottery regarding the threat to the national lottery and the good cause fund posed by online, offshore bet-on-lottery operators; if he will publish this opinion; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [10639/19]

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton It appears that the national lottery, which contributes over €220 million to good causes each year, is now subject to a very serious threat from the operation of unregulated offshore betting-on-lottery operators. Has the Minister received the report that was previously indicated? If so, will he make it available?

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I have not yet received a formal opinion from the national lottery regulator regarding this topic. As the Deputy may be aware, it falls outside the statutory remit of the Office of the Regulator of the National Lottery.

I am aware of the issues in question. The topic has been raised in general discussions as part of the normal engagement my officials and I have with the regulator's office on matters pertaining to governance. We receive general updates on the regulator's activities in exercising her functions, as set out in the National Lottery Act 2013. In a recent meeting, the regulator expressed concern about the potential future impact of online lottery betting in Ireland.

The context for the operation of the national lottery has changed significantly since its original establishment in 1986. The national lottery remains an important asset. The level of moneys raised for use by good causes has increased steadily in recent years. It increased by 28% between 2014 and 2018. As set out in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2019, this year's estimated total expenditure of €333 million for good causes will be part funded by approximately €225 million from the national lottery, with the remainder being funded by the Exchequer.

While this is a dynamic and rapidly evolving market, the national lottery continues to deliver strong results. The most recent reports and financial statements of the current operator, Premier Lotteries Ireland, show that gross ticket sales rose by 6.1% in 2017.

Against this background, there does not appear to be any evidence of a significant impact on the national lottery arising from online lottery betting at present. My officials will continue to engage with the regulator and Premier Lotteries Ireland to review the impact of online lottery betting websites on the national lottery and the good causes fund.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Does the Minister expect to receive an opinion from the regulator of the national lottery regarding the threat posed by online offshore operators that allow people to bet on the outcome of lottery draws? I think he has conceded that it is a threat. It would have a negative impact on the good causes fund. As he indicated in his answer, the Minister appreciates the €225 million that goes to a wide range of community, sporting, cultural and other events throughout Ireland. Other countries have taken action to reduce the risk to their national lotteries from these unregulated offshore lotteries to ensure funds are held for good causes. Why does the Minister sound so reluctant to intervene in this case? Most people who are aware that gambling is a serious problem know that this kind of online gambling is becoming more prevalent.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I would like to put on the record of the Dáil some figures regarding the transfers that the national lottery has made to the Exchequer in recent years. I could take any year as a benchmark. In 2011, the figure was €230 million. It decreased to €178 million in 2014. That figure has now rebuilt to €227 million. The contribution the national lottery is making had increased in recent years, but it may have stabilised or plateaued, depending on one's perspective, between 2017 and 2018. The Deputy asked about the engagement of my office and my Department with the regulator on this matter. My understanding of the view of the regulator is based on an extract from the last engagement with our regulator that has been shared with me. The regulator knows that this could be a long-term issue. At the moment, the type of gambling under way here that could present a difficulty to the lottery is small in scale. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, will bring a report to the Government shortly in relation to the regulation of the gambling sector. I think that will provide a valuable platform for dealing with this issue.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Unregulated offshore gambling in this area is developing with speed. I appreciate that it is also developing quickly in many other areas.

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