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Canadian Pension Fund Sells Irish Lottery

By Manny Wood.
Fact checked by Wilbur Thompson.

According to reports, Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI), the private company that operates the Irish National Lottery, may be put up for sale by its Canadian owner, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP). Although PLI has a 20-year license to operate the franchise, OTPP has reportedly hired Swiss bank UBS to advise on a potential sale. OTPP declined to comment on the matter. The Canadian group had previously sold its UK lotto business, Camelot, to rival gaming group Allwyn after losing the concession to operate the UK lottery. PLI has acknowledged the report but has left it without comments on market speculation or press rumours.

National Lottery ticket sales reached over €1 billion in 2021, with €304 million raised for good causes. PLI’s operating profit increased to €25.3 million in 2021, up from €14.6 million in 2020. The franchise faced criticism in the past for adding two balls to the twice-weekly Lotto jackpot in 2015, increasing the odds of winning. It also generated controversy for using unclaimed prizes for marketing and promotions, with over €124 million in unclaimed prizes since 2015 and almost €122 million used for promoting the National Lottery and its games by the end of 2021. Despite these issues, the Irish National Lottery remains a highly profitable asset with a guaranteed income stream, which is attractive to pension funds.

A spokeswoman for PLI stated that discussions regarding the ownership structure of the company were a matter for the shareholders to address. PLI is committed to its purpose of operating a responsible and world-class lottery to raise funds for local communities in Ireland. OTPP and PLI won the concession to operate the Irish lottery in 2014, beating out competition from Italian gaming giant Gtech and Australian gambling firm Tatts.