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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 November 2006, 10:03 GMT
When a million is not enough cash
Diarmaid Fleming
BBC Newsline - Dublin

Winning the lottery could mean instant retirement for many people, but not if you live in the Republic of Ireland.

Soaring house prices and cost of living means that hitting the jackpot does not necessarily mean hitting the road from your job.

Winning lottery syndicate
Lottery players feel 1m euro isn't what it used to be

With house prices now averaging 400,000 euros (£270,000) in the Republic - and with double that buying you only a modest suburban house in Dublin - the minimum winning jackpot of 1.3m euro (£870,000) is not enough of a nest-egg for many to retire on.

"Based on player feedback, what they've told us is that when the lottery started in 1987, or even 10 years ago, if you won the jackpot you were made for life," Irish National Lottery chief executive Dermot Griffin told BBC Newsline.

"We've been told that while the prizes now are good sums of money, you can't exactly retire for the rest of your life on them. People feel that if they've beaten the odds and won the jackpot then it should become that life-changing event," he adds.

The minimum jackpot was set at IR£1m in 1987, when a substantial luxury house could have been bought in Dublin for IR£100,000 (£85,000).

A low cost of living in a country in recession and ravaged by emigration - before an astonishing economic turn-around in the 1990s - would have left winners with plenty of spare cash left over too.

Dermot Griffin said players wanted to be made for life
Dermot Griffin said players wanted to be made for life

But falling ticket sales in recent years, and property prices which have risen more than ten-fold in many areas since then, have prompted lottery chiefs to dig deeper.

Inflation may be worrying Irish economists, but the Irish National Lottery has decided to spend its way out of trouble, with the minimum jackpot rising to 2m euro (£1.3m).

However, lottery bosses will be taking a gamble that punters will be prepared to spend more too - a 50% increase in the jackpot also means a 50% increase in ticket prices, up from a minimum of 2 euro (£1.34) to 3 euro (£2).

Out in Dublin, the reaction among punters was mixed.

"It's good the prizes are going up but not the price of the lottery ticket. The ordinary person can only afford so much, so in principle I won't be doing it again and my family won't be doing it either," said Julie Betts from Sandymount.

Irish lottery ticket
The cost of tickets as well as the jackpot has gone up

But others welcome the bigger prize. "1.3m euro I'd consider enough for one individual, but when three or four win the prize, then it's not enough.

"With the price of houses here, 300,000 euro would not buy you a house in Dublin. 2m euro would be ample for one person - I'd be happy with it," reflected a hopeful Paul Ryan, his jacket pocket bulging with lottery tickets.

The lottery plans bigger one-off jackpots, but is hedging its bets literally - with punters now given three extra numbers to choose from, making it harder to win.

With odds of around 8,000,000 to 1 against winning the lottery, for most people the increased prize will just serve to remind them of how much more money they might have won - if only they'd picked the right numbers.


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