To everybody’s relief, not least that of the National Lottery operator, Saturday’s Lotto will have to be won, and shops selling tickets are busier than ever.

The jackpot prize of €19.06 million will be awarded on Saturday evening bar a scenario even less likely than what has transpired to date.

The Lotto jackpot has not been won since June 6th. There have been 61 successive jackpot rollovers. A betting man or woman would have got Lotto-like odds on that scenario.

Noel Dunne, who owns the Centra on Parnell Street in Dublin, said it had been “manic” in his shop on Friday.

“I always find it amusing that people think they’ve a better chance in the bigger ones but I suppose people just want to be involved. It has generated huge interest,” he said.

“We have a lot of offices around coming in after organising syndicates. The fact it has been so long, seven months, people just want to be part of the excitement.”

Regulars were buying more lines than usual, and newcomers were buying a ticket “just to get in on it for the jackpot”.

The same was true for Londis on Westmoreland Street.

“It’s insane at the moment. People are going mad. One guy spent over €4,000 today, another spent €2,000 and one person spent €500. That’s the most we’ve ever seen here,” Joanna Baker said.

“People are buying way more lines than usual, it’s very big amounts straight away instead of just three or four lines,” she said.

Similarly, a shopkeeper in Spar on D’Olier Street said it was “crazy” all morning, with more than 10 people spending “big, big money” on tickets, and “lots of people coming in for the smaller tickets as well”.

“The shop is making the same amount it would make in a normal day through Lotto tickets alone,” he said.

University College Cork (UCC) mathematician Dr Michael Cronin estimates the odds of 61 successive rollovers at 17,000 to one.

There have been 663 Lotto draws to date using the same format of six from 47 numbered balls. He estimates that the chances of a long losing streak with such a format are about 30 to one, much lower odds.

“There was always a risk that this would happen at some point in the window,” he said.

It will not happen again as the lottery regulator has agreed that there can be no more than five rollovers after the Lotto hits the jackpot figure of €19.06 million.

If the jackpot with six numbers is not won, the jackpot will be shared among those with five numbers and the bonus ball. If there are no winners in that category, it will then be shared among those with five numbers.

Last week, there were three players who matched five balls and the bonus ball, winning more than €250,000 each, but the previous week there had been no winners in that category.

National Lottery spokesman Fran Whearty said the jackpot prize would not be offered to those with less than five numbers. The likelihood of nobody having at least five numbers are “tiny” he added.

“We can see loads of winners sharing the same prize, but at the end of the day it is a lottery,” he says.

The tills will be ringing between now and the draw which takes place on Saturday night as usual at 8pm.

Shops have been told to be “especially vigilant” and to only accept manually completed payslips.

They have been reminded that machine-marked payslips are not permitted under National Lottery game rules.

Vincent Jennings of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association (CSNA) says interest in the Lotto draw is already “massive”.

The issue of the “unwinnable” Lotto draw was raised in the Dáil by Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan who suggested the public were losing confidence in it.

However, Mr Jennings said sales of lottery tickets had been remarkably robust and the draw continued to have a loyal following. He estimates that ticket sales fell in December year on year by about 8 per cent – much less than many people had feared.

“Sales never fell off the cliff. People are superstitious about missing draws. They are very loyal to it,” he said.

He also praised the lottery operators, Premier Lotteries Ireland, for continuing to ensure that the draw cannot be “gamed” by players with deep pockets.

Mr Durkan said he did not take much interest in the National Lottery draw until somebody asked him, “where have all the winners gone?”

He believes the must-win draw is a “move in the right direction” and will restore confidence in the lottery. “We will wait to see how this works out. The devil is in the detail. It is important for transparency that it is done properly.”

The Irish Times

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