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The Irish Lotto was first established in 1986 and continued to be operated by the Irish government for 28 years. This was until November 2014 when, following the global financial crisis, the government granted a 20-year operating licence to Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI). Irish Lotto draws operate frequently, taking place at 8pm (UTC) every Wednesday and Saturday.
Each draw sees six numbers selected at random from a pool of one to 47. Winning the main jackpot only requires entrants to match the first six numbers drawn from the machine, but there's also a bonus 7th ball that can boost your winnings if you've matched fewer.
Lotto Plus is an added option that lets players submit their numbers into two additional draws for €0.50 per panel. The top prizes are €500,000 and €250,000 but the entrance fee is the same for both. Lotto Plus draws take place immediately after the main draw and each also features six numbers and a bonus ball.
PLI has a policy of starting each new jackpot at €2 million. This amount then 'rolls over', increasing in value after every draw without a winner. This design means that players stand a chance of winning far more than the original €2 million, as in the case of the €10.2 million jackpot won in February 2015.
In total there are eight different ways to win the Irish Lotto. Winnings vary depending on the jackpot’s size, but the minimum you could win for two numbers and a bonus ball is a €3 scratch card. From top to bottom, the jackpot tiers are as follows:
Players who know their six numbers can visit their local vendor or buy tickets online from Lottery.ie. Either way, the minimum entry is to pick numbers for two panels at €2 each, making for a combined entry cost of €4. This minimum is somewhat restrictive compared to UK and European lotteries that allow you to enter with just one line of numbers.
Licensed vendors can be found throughout Ireland, but buying tickets online is much more convenient – once you're set up at least. Currently, the Irish Lotto requires all new online players to send a copy of their driving licence or passport to confirm their account. This is a somewhat dated approach compared to the more streamlined sign-up process of the UK National Lottery.
Once you have an account, you can benefit from a number of lottery features. One is to use the number generator to randomly decide your selections, while another is to store a list of saved number combinations. You're also able to pull up your last ticket and play it for the upcoming draw.
While the Irish Lotto site may be lacking the style of its European counterparts, the functionality of the site is impressive – you can play on a variety of browsers including mobile web browsers. Another bonus is that although you have the option to add a link to your mobile homepage, players don't need to download an app. This means in order to check the results all you need is a stable web connection.
Irish residents have the option of watching the results live on RTÉ One, which helps add to the drama for many players. Outside of Ireland, some TV networks will provide RTÉ One to UK viewers. However, you will need to check with your TV provider for availability.
Irish Lotto has a policy whereby all prizes expire 90 days after the date of a draw. This means you should remember to check your numbers as soon as possible after the numbers are announced. This is also another time when it helps to play online as winners are sent an email notification. How you claim depends on how much you win:
Online players will receive small payments directly to their account, but larger ones will be sent out by cheque.