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McDonald says ethos of National Lottery radically altered

27 March, 2013 - by Mary Lou McDonald TD

Speaking during the committee stage of the National Lottery Bill, Sinn Féin public expenditure and reform spokesperson, Mary Lou McDonald TD, criticised Minister Howlin for radically altering the ethos of the lottery and effectively selling it off.

Deputy McDonald said:
“Minister Howlin has introduced a new legislative framework for the operation of the National Lottery. Whilst technically the government is not selling off the lottery, it is in fact doing so for all intents and purposes. It is all the more worrying that we have yet to set eyes on the proposed new 20-year licence.

“Just a few weeks ago Minister Howlin told the Dáil that the National Lottery has been one of Ireland’s success stories of the past quarter of a century and that it was fair to say concerns have never been raised about the integrity, probity or ethos of our lottery. Despite this success the government is radically changing the ethos of the lottery from one of public interest to a for profit model.

“If this legislation passes the Minister will no longer have any involvement in the national lottery company, will not hold shares in the company or appoint its directors. The Bill establishes the office of a new National Lottery Regulator office creating an unnecessary layer of public administration facilitating the new for profit model.

“Government spin on the new lottery bill has focussed on the upfront payment they hope to secure from extending the licence to 20 years. We are told part of the upfront payment will go towards paying for the new National Children’s Hospital. If Fine Gael and Labour were serious about the Children’s Hospital project they would pay for it out of real capital expenditure and not the effective sale of a valuable state asset. Matching investment monies could be secured from the European Investment Bank or from the private pension sector.

“There is also the reality that the new private operator is not going to fork out hundreds of millions of euro in an upfront payment for the good of their health. Brendan Howlin has provided no legislative guarantees that the current levels of good causes funding will be maintained or that increased profits will benefit local communities. Local retailers also remain unsure if current sales margin of six per cent will be at least maintained.” ENDS

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