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Advertiser: National Lottery
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 4.1, 4.4, 4.6, 4.9, 4.10
A television advertisement featured a shopkeeper and a female customer. When the customer placed her lotto ticket on the counter, the shopkeeper stated:
“Did you know that 90% of National Lottery money goes back into the community”.
The customer expressed disbelief together with other customers in the shop. The advertisement then featured a man outside the shop telling a crowd what the shopkeeper had said. A woman enters the shop and states that the shopkeeper was talking “gibberish” while another asks if they should call a doctor. When the ‘doctor’ appeared, he used a ‘fib’ detector test on the shopkeeper which detected that she was telling the truth.
On screen text at the end of the advertisement stated:
“2020 financials were 58% prizes, 27% good causes, 5% retailer commission”.
The Committee of Public Accounts considered the advertisement’s statement that 90% of lottery money goes back to the community was misleading because this figure included unclaimed prize money which was diverted to incremental marketing and advertising of the National Lottery.
The advertisers stated that the advertising claim was correct, that 90% of all revenue generated from sales of National Lottery games was returned to communities in the shape of prizes, funding Good Causes and commission to retailers all over Ireland. They said that the advertising campaign explicitly defined the 90% return to the community as meaning 58% prizes, 27% Good Causes and 5% retailer commission and that all iterations of the advertising referred to figures used to calculate the 90% value by reference to financial statements e.g. “2020 financials were 58% prizes, 27% Good Causes, 5% retailer commission”.
The advertisers said that the National Lottery Licence contained an express provision requiring that factual statements for the National Lottery be true and capable of independent verification. As such, the independently verified source of information for the claims made during the course of the 90% campaign was their audited financial statement(s) and these statements had been the subject of subsequent analysis of their auditors which further verified the claim within the advertising.
The advertisers said that prizes are won by members of the community and are then available to be claimed. If any prize is not claimed within the stipulated period, they said that it then must, under the terms of the Licence, be used solely to promote the National Lottery, and that 90% of sales go back to the community as claimed in the advertisement.
The advertisers referred to the fact that The National Lottery Act 2013 had established the Regulator of the National Lottery, an independent statutory body with a suite of powers to maintain oversight and regulate the operation of the National Lottery, including its advertising and adherence to the terms of its operating Licence. They said that the regulatory framework included a bespoke National Lottery Advertising and Promotions Code of Practice, which contained detailed and sector specific obligations and expressly required continuing compliance with the general provisions of the ASAI Code.
They said that the Regulator was aware of their advertising campaign, the relevant financial statements that the claim was based on, and the detailed provisions contained in the Licence on the treatment and the use for promotional purposes unclaimed prizes. They said that the Regulator had completed a review of the material which was the subject matter of the complaint and was a matter of public record, having been confirmed by the then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in response to parliamentary questions in September 2022.
The advertisers said that, notwithstanding the fact that they believed the advertisement was accurate, independently verified, and compliant with the Code, and through an abundance of caution, they agreed to qualify any future statements in any similar advertising campaign to ensure there was no opportunity for misinterpretation. They noted that the advertisement has already run its natural course and was no longer live and considered that this would deal with the complaint issue raised.
1. The ASAI Executive reviewed the National Lottery Licence, in particular Clause 6.9.2, which stated:
Any Expired Unclaimed Prizes shall be forfeited in favour of the Licensee, provided that such Expired Unclaimed Prizes shall be used:
126.96.36.199 solely for the promotion of the National Lottery and/or the Lottery Games (excluding Base Marketing), in a manner determined by the Licensee, which shall include the funding of special draws and additional top-up prizes; and which may include Incremental Marketing and advertising of the National Lottery and/or Lottery Games; or such other activities to promote the National Lottery and/or Lottery Games as specifically agreed in writing with the Regulator from time to time;
2. The ASAI Executive reviewed the transcript of the Committee of Public Accounts debate of 8th December 2022. They noted commentary from the Premier Lottery Ireland that “The licence is very clear that once money has been allocated by the regulator to the prize account and remains unclaimed for a period of time, which is over three months in the case of most games, it then ceases to be prize money and becomes promotional money (Page 67)”
3. They also noted commentary from the transcript of the same meeting referring to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General which included references to unclaimed prizes1. The ASAI Executive reviewed this report and noted information that since 2015 just over €124 million in respect of expired unclaimed prizes had been forfeited in favour of the National Lottery operator, and by end 2021, almost €122 million had been used for the promotion of the National Lottery/ and or the Lottery games. Of this, 98% had been spend on incremental marketing with the remaining 2% spent on top up prizes.
1 19. Exchequer receipts from National Lottery ticket sales (audit.gov.ie)
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee considered that, in line with the Code, a statement was warranted in this case.
The Committee noted that the claim in the advertising campaign was that 90% of National Lottery money goes back into the community and was based on audited financials for the year 2020 and that this information had been included in the television advertisement, stating “58% prizes, 27% good causes, 5% retailer commission”. The Committee noted that the complainants considered the advertising was misleading because the 90% included unclaimed prize money (as noted in paragraph 2 of Further Information above) that was redistributed back into advertising and incremental marketing for the National Lottery and therefore not “back into the community”.
The Committee also noted that under the terms of the lottery licence, unclaimed prize money should be used solely for the promotion of the National Lottery, with the proviso that the promotion includes the funding of special draws and additional top-up prizes; and which may include incremental marketing and advertising of the National Lottery and/or Lottery Games.
The Committee considered that including information in advertising, where appropriate, about the reinvestment of unclaimed prize money would add clarity for consumers and welcomed the advertisers’ proposal to include a qualification, about the reinvestment of unclaimed prize money in future similar advertising.
Where similar claims are made on the percentage of money that goes back to the community, a qualification should be included to state that the prize money referred to may include unclaimed prizes which could be returned to the advertisers.