Where Your Money Goes

Where does the money you spend on Irish Lottery tickets go? The quick answer is “good causes”, which is true to a degree of course, but such a brief abrupt answer misses out on some interesting details buried in the longer answer.

“Good causes” are undoubtedly a recipient of Irish National Lottery ticket-takes, and in fact the National Lottery offer a neat map illustrating some of the lucky causes – it’s available here. You may be wondering what qualifies as a “good cause”, and that’s a good question. It seems the answer is, whatever certain politicians think.

To clarify, National Lottery funds are “donated” via the National Lottery Beneficiary Fund. Various Irish Government departments control the gateways to these funds (as outlined in the above link), and hence ultimately the decision to allocate National Lottery funds to a given entity resides with a Minister. This is possibly related to why every so often you hear of community projects in a certain area receiving bountiful funding, which is however completely disproportionate to the funding any other area in the country receives, only to find said area coincidentally resides in a Minister’s home turf.

Skepticism of politics aside, not every cent spent on Lottery tickets can be doled out to a Minister’s pet cause: the triumvirate of homes for National Lottery ticket-takings is in fact as follows, along with the percentage of takings that went on each (in 2012):

  • good causes – 30.6% 
  • prize money – 55%
  • operational expenses – 14%

There is an excellent article by Eoin Burke-Kennedy on the latest financial year for the Irish National Lottery. Some of the figures were surprising to me – for example, in 2012 55% of overall Lottery takings were paid out in prize money. That is a higher figure (at over €400m) than I would have thought. Its not clear however whether that is a theoretical payout, or what was actually paid out. I.e. “shared total winnings of” leaves it ambiguous for me as to whether unclaimed prizes are included in that figure or not.

Operational expenses ran at over 14% of total revenue, but the real shocker for me was the total amount spent in Ireland on lottery tickets in 2012 – a whopping €735.1m. This includes Irish Lotto, Euro Millions, Daily Millions and All or Nothing lottery draws, as well as scratch card sales. Assuming good causes always made up 30% of the revenue taken, that would imply that if €4.2 billion has been spent over the 26 years the Lottery has been in operation, then we have spent €14bn in 26 years on lottery tickets – who says we’re not a nation of gamblers!

So getting back to the original question of where does your money go, I hope you would agree that taking the longer, more scenic route to the answer throws up some interesting stats – information worth knowing, really. After all, it’s more than likely your money, if you’re reading this.




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