The National Lottery began gaming operations on 23 March 1987, when it launched its first scratchcards. Since then, the National Lottery has expanded its
product line to include the Lotto family of games, the Monday Million and All or Nothing draws, television bingo, televised game shows, regular "Millionaire Raffles,"
and participation in the transnational EuroMillions lottery. Tickets and scratch cards are sold by a network of agents around the country. In March 2009, the
National Lottery also began offering players the opportunity to play key games such as Lotto, Lotto Plus, and EuroMillions online. By the end of 2009,
6,000 registered players had generated €744,000 in revenue from online sales.
In 2008, 55 percent of the National Lottery's revenue came from Lotto games, 20 percent from scratch cards, 17 percent from EuroMillions games, and 8
percent from other games.
All cash prizes won in National Lottery games are paid out as tax-free lump sums. All prizes in Monday Million, Lotto, All or Nothing, 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. Winners have the right to remain anonymous.
The first 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 draws have always been televised live by Ireland's public
service broadcaster, Radio Telefís Éireann. The draws are made at approximately 7:58pm and broadcast on the RTE 1 channel each Wednesday and Saturday.
The minimum play in Lotto has always been two lines of six numbers. At its current cost of €1.50 per line, the minimum cost of a Lotto ticket is €3,
making 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 Mega Millions and Powerball, 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 often adds extra money to the Lotto jackpot on bank holidays and at Christmas, and sometimes announces a doubling of all prizes other than jackpots.
Lotto 6/36: 1988-92
In Lotto's introductory 6/36 format, six numbered balls were drawn from a lottery machine containing 36 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. At Lotto's initial cost of £0.50 per line,
all possible combinations could be purchased for £973,896. This left Lotto vulnerable to a brute force attack, which happened 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, 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
syndicate was 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, too, 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 approximately £310,000 before expenses.
Klincewicz later appeared on the television talk show Kenny Live and wrote 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 abandon Lotto when the 6/49 British National Lottery began operations 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
slightly to €1.35 million.
Lotto 6/45: 2006-present
Core Lotto sales had declined steadily for six consecutive years up to 2006, falling from €314.9 million in 2000 to €255.1 million in 2006.
Falling sales partly reflected public dissatisfaction with the game during the Celtic Tiger economic boom. As property prices and the cost of living
escalated rapidly, particularly in Dublin, a €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, with the jackpot won 39 times out of the year's 105 draws. The year
2004 had a largest jackpot of €6.9 million, but only seven other jackpots over €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 in order to create bigger jackpots and combat falling ticket sales. It made the
starting jackpot a guaranteed €2 million, increased the match-5+bonus prize to €25,000 (up from €12,000), introduced a match-3 prize of €5, and
increased the price of a line of Lotto from €1 to €1.50. 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
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. In 2008, sales rose by a further 6.6 percent to €381.4 million but fell in 2009 to €336 million.
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.
The National Lottery switched Lotto to a 6/45 game in November 2006, and the longer odds 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. On 14 April 2010, the second-largest Lotto jackpot of €16,717,717 was won on a ticket sold in Dungarvan,
County Waterford. The third-largest jackpot of €16,390,239 was won on 23 October 2010, and the ticket was sold in Donnybrook in Dublin.
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.
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 8.8 percent in 2008, to €109 million, but fell in 2009 to €97.5 million.
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. However, sales rose by 2.9 percent in 2008, to €11.2 million and remained at this level for 2009.
The National Lottery joined the transnational EuroMillions lottery on 8 October 2004. The EuroMillions Draw takes place each Tuesday and Friday and is broadcast
on RTE Two on Tuesday and RTE One on Friday. Since then, several EuroMillions jackpots have been won or shared in Ireland:
- On 31 July 2005, Dolores McNamara, a part-time cleaning lady from Limerick, won a record-breaking EuroMillions jackpot of €115.4 million on a €2 quick-pick ticket. McNamara held the record as the largest individual prizewinner in European lottery history until 8 May 2009, when a winner from Mallorca, Spain, scooped a jackpot of €126.2 million.
- 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. One winning ticket was purchased in Limerick and the other in Cork.
- On 4 July 2008, a couple who chose to remain anonymous won a EuroMillions jackpot of €15 million on a €9 quick-pick ticket purchased at a shop in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary.
- On 12 June 2009, a jackpot of €58.8 million was divided among two winning tickets, worth €29.4 million each. One of the tickets, a €6 quick-pick, was sold in Newcastle, County Dublin; the winning family chose to remain anonymous. The other ticket was purchased by 74-year-old Brian Caswell in Bolton, Greater Manchester, in the UK.
- Irish sales of the core EuroMillions game fell from €145.3 million in 2006, to €118.7 million in 2007, to €109 million in 2008, and to €105.7 million in 2009.
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. In 2009, six "Plus Extra Draws" were held with €1
million as the top prize.
Sales of Plus were €33.1 million in 2008 and increased to €34.4 million in 2009.
In September 2008 the National Lottery launched Monday Million, a 6/39 weekly lottery drawing with a fixed, non-rolling jackpot of €1 million. The game
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.
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 Eileen Farrelly from County Monaghan 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.
Sales of Monday Million were €25.4 million in 2009. There were nine winners of the €1 million top prize.
Monday Million plus
In 2010, the National Lottery launched Monday Million Plus, an add-on to the main Monday Million draw. It costs an extra €0.50 per line to play, and the top prize in
Monday Million Plus is €500,000.
All or nothing
Introduced in October 2009, All or Nothing is the National Lottery's first daily draw game. Players choose 12 numbers from 24; if they get all the numbers correct, or none of the
numbers correct, they win €500,000—a 1 in 1,352,078 chance of victory. The game has additional prizes of €5,000 for Match 11, €25 for Match 10, €10 for Match 9, and €4 for Match 8.
Tickets cost €2 per line. The numbers are announced on RTÉ Two each night and also displayed through an animated draw on the Lottery website. The game had generated sales of €3.4
million by the end of 2009.
In the summer of 2008, the National Lottery ran its first Millionaire Raffle. The lottery issued 300,000 tickets, costing €20 each. The raffle featured two
top prizes of €1 million, five prizes of €100,000, 45 prizes of €10,000, 80 prizes of €5,000, 100 prizes of €1,000, and 300 prizes of €500.
The €1 million and €100,000 winning tickets were announced on RTÉ One on 26 August 2008, during a live broadcast from the Rose of Tralee festival.
(The full list of winning ticket numbers was published the following day on the National Lottery's website). During the broadcast, host Derek Mooney stated that the
winning tickets had actually been drawn earlier that day at the National Lottery headquarters in Dublin. This lack of transparency caused controversy, especially given
the coincidence that one of the winning €1 million tickets had been sold in the town of Tralee. National radio stations hosted animated discussions of the issue.
The National Lottery held a second Millionaire Raffle over the Christmas period 2008. To avoid the controversy associated with the previous raffle, the winning
tickets for the €1 million and €100,000 prizes were drawn on live RTÉ television during the channel's New Year's Eve broadcast.
Four Millionaire Raffles were held during 2009. For the Christmas 2009 draw, the game was expanded to include additional features such as early bonus draws, an
additional €1 million top prize and a bigger prize fund.
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, allowing one additional number each time. Telly Bingo sales were €13.7 million in 2007,
down from €14.4 million the previous year. Sales increased slightly to €13.9 million in 2008 and increased again to €14.3 million in 2009.
Telly Bingo is broadcast on RTÉ One on Tuesdays and Thursdays and repeated during their late night schedule. Liz Bonnin presented the show for many years before
Shirley Temple Bar became the regular host in 2001. Since 2004 the show has been presented by Declan Buckley and Nuala Carey. From 9 September 2010 there are
3 draws on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
Instant Scratch 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 5.8 percent to €170.2 million in 2008 but fell to €163.8 million in 2009.
The National Lottery funds the prize money for several televised game shows, which until 2009 were produced exclusively 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 since 1990, the game shows have proven very popular, often featuring among the channel's top-rated programmes.
The National Lottery's flagship game show Winning Streak debuted in 1990 and 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 replacement 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.
In 2009, the National Lottery and TV3 began producing the Irish version of Deal Or No Deal. This is the first time a National Lottery game show has been produced
outside RTÉ. As with the RTÉ game shows, contestants become eligible by playing an associated scratch card game.