A plan by the National Lottery to extend the sale of scratchcards to all checkouts in large supermarkets has been described as “worrying” by gambling addiction experts.
A pilot programme is under way in a small number of Tesco, Dunnes Stores and SuperValu stores, where scratchcard dispensers containing up to 19 different games have been installed in each checkout aisle.
Problem Gambling Ireland said that any increase in the availability and visibility of scratchcards was “a worrying development”.
“This is an incentive to increase impulse buying,” Barry Grant, the chief executive, said.
“The National Lottery seems to spend more on advertising than anyone else in the country. They are on TV, radio, billboards and online and they now seem to be moving into the one space they’re not already in.”
He warned that any increase in scratchcard sales was also likely to lead to a rise in the number of people with gambling problems. “Scratchcards are more likely to lead to addiction than playing the Lotto as they provide instant gratification,” he said.
The National Lottery confirmed that the sale of scratchcards at every checkout till was currently being tested in 14 supermarkets across the country. The cost of the scratchcard games ranges from €1 to €20.
“Player protection and responsible play remain at the heart of our operations and the retail developments in no way change our commitment to operate the National Lottery in a socially responsible way,” a spokeswoman said. “Part of our contract with our retailers is that they undergo player protection training. Our aim is to always provide lottery games that bring fun and entertainment to everyone and raise funds for good causes while ensuring that individuals play within their means.”
Lynn Boylan, a Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin, criticised the latest initiative.
“The gambling industry has learnt all the tricks of the tobacco and alcohol industries; by making their products more visible they are trying to normalise it,” she said. “This is completely wrong and is something which the regulator of the National Lottery should restrict.”
Róisín Shortall, co-leader of the Social Democrats, said: “We shouldn’t be making it easier for people to spend money on lottery tickets by putting temptation in their way. Sweets were sensibly banned at checkouts by a lot of supermarkets for the same reason.”
Jack Chambers, a Fianna Fáil TD, said: “The lottery should be more responsible in how they sell their products. It’s another reminder of why we need rules and regulations around gambling, as we have anarchy at the moment.”