The National Lottery (Irish: An Crannchur Náisiúnta) is the state lottery of Republic of Ireland. It was created when the Republic of Ireland government passed the National Lottery Act, 1986 to help raise funds for good causes. The eligible causes are sport and recreation, health and welfare, national heritage and the arts, the Irish language, and the natural environment.
National Lottery gaming operations began in March 1987 with scratchcards, and the flagship drawing game Lotto began in March 1988. The National Lottery now operates three families of drawing games (Lotto, EuroMillions, and Daily Million), funds televised bingo and game shows, sells a wide range of scratchcards, and runs a number of Millionaire Raffles each year. National Lottery games are available online as well as through a network of over 3,700 retail agents nationwide.
By the end of 2013, the National Lottery had achieved over €12 billion in cumulative sales, had paid out €6.7 billion in prizes, and had raised €4.4 billion for the good causes it supports. In 2011, 2.2 million Irish people (64 percent of the adult population) reported playing National Lottery games, with 1.5 million (42 percent) reporting that they played weekly.
In 2013, due to a financial crisis that had left the Irish state running a large budget deficit, the Irish government agreed to sell the National Lottery licence for 20 years to a private operator, Premier Lotteries Ireland. The new operator took ownership of the licence on 27 February 2014. The government is receiving €405 million from the sale, some of which will finance the construction of a new National Children's Hospital.
From its inception until 27 February 2014, the National Lottery was operated under licence by the An Post National Lottery Company (Irish: Comhlacht Chrannchur Náisiúnta An Post), which was 80 percent owned by Ireland's state-owned postal services provider An Post and 20 percent by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
In 2011, in response to Ireland's financial crisis, the government included the National Lottery licence on a list of state assets that could be sold to assist the public finances. In April 2012, the government announced that it would sell the National Lottery licence for a period of 20 years for an upfront payment, while ensuring that 30 percent of lottery sales would still go to fund its designated good causes. The licence was valued at between €200 and €600 million, with some estimates putting its value in the region of €500 million.
In May 2013, the Irish government enacted the National Lottery Act 2013 to allow for the sale of the National Lottery licence, provide for the establishment of a new independent lottery regulator, and eliminate some restrictions on Internet gambling to allow for the growth of online lottery sales. The legislation also added the natural environment to the list of good causes eligible to receive lottery funding.
On 3 October 2013, Minister Howlin announced that the government had agreed to sell the National Lottery licence for €405 million to Premier Lotteries Ireland, a consortium comprising An Post, An Post pension funds, and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (owner of the Camelot Group, operators of the UK National Lottery). Dermot Griffin, head of the An Post National Lottery Company since 2006, was appointed chief executive of Premier Lotteries Ireland. Other existing senior management were also retained. Executives from the Camelot Group, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, and An Post were appointed to the board of the new company.
The process of finalizing the lottery contracts was delayed due to an industrial dispute involving the employees of An Post National Lottery Company over the terms and conditions of staff transfers to Premier Lotteries Ireland, but the dispute was resolved in February 2014, and contracts were signed on 27 February 2014. Some of the funds paid to the Irish state will be used for a range of local infrastructural projects, including the construction of a National Children's Hospital.
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, television bingo, televised game shows, regular "Millionaire Raffles," participation in the transnational EuroMillions lottery, and a daily €1 million game called Daily Million.
National Lottery tickets and scratchcards are sold by a network of over 3,700 agents around the country. In March 2009, the National Lottery began offering online sales of instant-win games, as well as key draw games such as Lotto and EuroMillions. Internet sales increased by 43 percent in 2012, to €8.7 million, with around 40,000 players registered to play games online.
In 2012, total National Lottery sales were €734 million. A total of €406 million was distributed in prizes and €225 million was distributed to good causes.
All cash prizes won in National Lottery games are paid as tax-free lump sums. All prizes in Lotto, EuroMillions, and Daily Million games must be claimed within 90 days of the applicable drawing dates. No minor under the age of 18 may purchase tickets for or claim prizes in any National Lottery game. Winners have the right to remain anonymous.
Lotto, which began in March 1988, is the National Lottery's flagship drawing game. It is currently a 6/45 lottery with an additional "bonus ball." Its starting jackpot is a guaranteed €2 million, which rolls over until it is won. The minimum play in Lotto has always been two lines of six numbers each. At Lotto's current cost of €1.50 per line, a Lotto ticket costs a minimum of €3. Lotto has produced two spinoff games, Lotto 5-4-3-2-1, which began in 1997, and Lotto Plus, which began in 2000.
The largest ever Lotto jackpot of €18.9 million was won on 28 June 2008 by a syndicate of 16 work colleagues at a quarry and concrete plant in Bennekerry, Carlow.
Sales of Lotto fell from €379.1 million in 2011 to €339.7 million in 2012. The National Lottery said that this reflected lower jackpot levels during the year.
The first Lotto drawing was held on Saturday, 16 April 1988. In its original 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 Klincewicz's plan by limiting the number of tickets any single machine could sell, and by turning off the terminals his ticket purchasers were known to be using heavily. Despite its efforts, the syndicate did manage to buy over 80 percent of the combinations, spending an estimated £820,000 on tickets. It had the winning numbers on the night, but two other winning tickets were also sold, 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.
To prevent such a brute force attack 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 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.
The National Lottery's corporate logo from the late 1990s– 2008. The original 1987 logo was similar, but with the text "National Lottery" in a serif font however (with the word "National" in mixed case), and the boxes were not rounded. 
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.
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 November 2006, the National Lottery changed Lotto to a 6/45 game to create bigger jackpots and combat falling ticket sales. It made the starting jackpot a guaranteed €2 million, increased the match-5+bonus prize from €12,000 to €25,000, 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 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.
The Wednesday night Lotto draw on 4 February 2015 was postponed until the following night due to a technical problem with ticket machines. This marked the first time in Lotto history that a drawing was postponed.
As of September 3rd, 2015, the cost of buying two lines increased from €3 to €4 and players must now choose from 47 instead of 45 numbers, lengthening the odds of winning the jackpot to almost 11 million (approximately 10.7 million) to one. The odds against winning the second prize have increased also, but so too has the prize value, from €25,000 to an estimated €100,000.  There will also be a new prize for matching 2 balls and the bonus ball.
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. The odds of winning these prizes are the same as for the main Lotto game.
Over 90 percent of Lotto players play Lotto Plus. Sales of Lotto Plus in 2012 were €74.3 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). Lotto 5-4-3-2-1 accounted for €13.1 million in sales in 2012.
The National Lottery joined the transnational EuroMillions lottery on 8 October 2004. As of 2012, EuroMillions accounts for 24 percent of National Lottery sales. 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 EuroMillions jackpot of €115 million, which at the time was the largest lottery prize ever won in Europe.
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 Foynes, County Limerick and the other in Millstreet, County Cork.
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.
On 29 January 2016, a jackpot of €132,376,632 was split amongst two winners, one in Ireland and one in France, each getting €66,188,316. There is no information about the winner currently.
Irish sales of EuroMillions were €131.5 million in 2012, a 3.2 percent increase on the previous year.
In June 2007, the National Lottery introduced "Plus," an add-on to the main EuroMillions game available only to Irish players. 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 Plus drawing was held on 15 June 2007. 76 percent of EuroMillions players now play Plus.
Sales of Plus were €44.6 million in 2012, an increase of 3.7 percent over the previous year.
In September 2012, the National Lottery introduced Daily Million to replace both Monday Million (a draw game with prizes up to €1 million, held once weekly on Monday nights) and All Or Nothing (a daily draw game with prizes up to €500,000). A 6/39 weekly lottery drawing with a fixed, non-rolling jackpot of €1 million, Daily Million takes place every day of the week, including weekends and bank holidays. It costs €1 per line to play. For an extra €0.50 per line, players can play Daily Million Plus for a top prize of €500,000.
In the summer of 2008, the National Lottery ran its first Millionaire Raffle. These special, limited edition raffles have been held several times a year since then. Two Millionaire Raffle draws were held in 2011 and three in 2012. For the Easter 2013 Millionaire Raffle, 200,000 tickets were available, costing €20 each. The raffle had a top prize of €1 million, a second prize of €250,000, and two third prizes of €100,000. Players could also win a range of smaller prizes ranging from €10,000 to €250.
The National Lottery introduced Telly Bingo 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. In 2012, Telly Bingo sales were €17.3 million.
The National Lottery had a total of 30 scratchcard games on offer during 2012, ranging in price from €1 to €10, and offering instant cash prizes from €2 to €100,000. Sales of instant scratchcard games rose 3.2 percent to €163.5 million in 2012.
The National Lottery funds the prize money for two televised game shows. 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 2007. It was replaced in 2007 by The Trump Card, which was replaced in turn by The Big Money Game, which was replaced by The Million Euro Challenge.