National Lottery to be Sold as Canadian Pension Fund Owner Plans Irish Exit

April 2, 2023 | Financial

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan hires Swiss bank UBS to advise on possible sale of Irish gaming franchise

DUBLIN, Ireland (March 23, 2023) — According to local media reports the Canadian pension fund owner of the Irish National Lottery is understood to be planning to sell the business despite having more than a decade remaining on its licence.

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP), which controls Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI), the private company that operates the National Lottery here, acquired a 20-year licence to operate the franchise back in 2014 for €405 million.

The Irish Times said the OTPP declined to comment.

But a UK media report indicated the fund was planning to sell the business and had hired Swiss bank UBS to advise on the matter.

The Canadian group recently sold its UK lotto business, Camelot, to rival gaming group Allwyn after Camelot surprisingly lost the concession to operate the UK lottery.

The Irish Times reports a spokeswoman for PLI here said the company had taken note of the report in the UK media on Tuesday “regarding OTPP exploring options for its shareholding in PLI”. “As a matter of policy, we do not comment on market speculation or press rumour,” she said.

“Any discussion regarding the ownership structure is a question for the shareholders and not something that we are in a position to comment on,” she said.

“PLI is wholly committed to delivering its core purpose, to operate a responsible and world-class lottery for the people of Ireland, raising much-needed good cause funds for the benefit of local communities throughout Ireland,” she said.

OTPP and its vehicle here PLI saw off intense competition from Italian gaming giant Gtech and Australian gambling firm Tatts to win the concession to operate the Irish lottery. One of the chief selling points was a greater ability to operate online, which had been restricted up to that point.

While pension funds have broadened their investment preferences in recent decades, they still rely on assets with guaranteed income streams.

National Lottery ticket sales surpassed €1 billion for the first time in 2021, according to the most recent financial results from PLI with some €304 million raised for good causes during the year. The business made an operating profit of €25.3 million in 2021, up from €14.6 million in 2020.

The franchise made headlines that year when the twice-weekly Lotto jackpot was not won for more than 50 consecutive draws, drawing criticism of PLI’s decision to add two balls in 2015, lengthening the odds of scooping the jackpot.

More recently, the business courted controversy for using the proceeds of unclaimed prizes for marketing and promotions. A Comptroller and Auditor General report outlined how the business had generated just over €124 million in unclaimed prizes since 2015. By the end of 2021, almost €122 million had been used for the promotion of the National Lottery and its games.

SOURCE: The Irish Times.

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