Irish Lottery for Sale in Surprise Move by Current Operator

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Posted on: March 21, 2023, 09:25h. 

Last updated on: March 21, 2023, 09:25h.

When the UK was preparing to issue a new concession to run the National Lottery, a lot of people were confident that the incumbent, the Camelot Group, would continue. The surprise move to give the operations to Allwyn caught Camelot’s owner, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP), unprepared. It then sold Camelot’s assets to Allwyn and now plans on exiting Ireland, as well.

A display for the Irish Lottery greets consumers in a store
A display for the Irish Lottery greets consumers in a store. The lottery’s operator, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, wants to sell the business. (Image: The Irish Times)

The Irish Times reported that OTPP is putting its Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI) business up for sale. It’s an unexpected move, as its concession to operate the lottery doesn’t expire for another 10 years.

OTPP has held a majority stake in PLI since Ireland awarded it the current concession in 2014. It paid €405 million (US$434.8 million) for the rights to the lottery, along with then-primary operator An Post and An Post Pension Funds.

OTPP On The Edge

OTPP hasn’t provided a reason for its sudden decision to back out. The move comes a month after the organization completed its sale of Camelot’s assets, including those in the UK and Illinois, to Allwyn. For those assets, it reportedly earned around £100 million (US$120.86 million).

Revenue doesn’t seem to be a primary motivation for the sale, at least not on paper. An update by OTPP earlier this month revealed that the fund generated a net return of 4% last year, driven by “strong returns from inflation-sensitive and infrastructure asset classes.”

It also had “value added beyond benchmark” of CAD4.4 billion (US$3.21 billion) as the 10-year average net return reached 8.5%. In addition, OTPP opened new offices in San Francisco and Mumbai.

PLI has been performing strong, as well. In 2021, its sales breached the €1-billion (US$1.07 billion) mark, recording a year-on-year increase of almost 15%. Operating profit totaled €25.3 million (US$27.16 million) for the year, as well.

As a result of its strong 2022 performance, the OTPP fund was “fully funded” as of January 1, 2023. In addition, it held a preliminary funding surplus of CAD17.5 million (US$12.79 million).

That facilitated the purchase of Sweetwater Royalties, a base metals and industrial minerals royalty company. For a 25% stake in the company, it paid CAD221.6 million (US$162.01 million) in cash.

At the same time, OTPP has had to cut back on certain investments. Earlier this year, the organization said that it would stop direct investments in China due to the ongoing political climate. However, it kept listed securities on the plate.

Irish Lottery Under Pressure

OTPP didn’t provide additional details regarding the PLI sale when contacted by Casino.org, making it difficult to pinpoint the reason for the decision. The Irish Times cited analysts who indicated that the organization was the odds-on favorite to continue in Ireland, despite having lost the UK’s National Lottery.

Ireland’s National Lottery has had to deal with some negative press over the past year. However, there’s no indication that this was the impetus for the PLI sale.

Last December, an audit by Ireland’s Comptroller and Auditor General raised questions about how unclaimed lottery winnings were being used. At the time, there were around €124 million (US$131.71 million) in unclaimed prizes that, according to the lottery charter, should be used for community projects.

The audit, however, found that some of the money was used for marketing and business expenses. That led to a call from legislators to increase oversight of the National Lottery operations, and reforms are still in the works.

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