Portugal & Ireland most generous lotteries in Europe

Each week millions of people play the lottery, in the hope that this time – finally – it will be their turn to win big. And they play a lot. An analysis of lottery sales in EU countries shows that, on average, 82 billion euros are collected each year. But how much of those revenues are actually used for the benefit of society, as they claim? This study reveals that it’s not always a lot – especially when one country is compared to the other.

Out of the huge sum that is earned every year in thirteen major European countries, on average, 10 percent is set aside specifically for charity or good causes. When taken as a whole, the most generous countries are Portugal and Ireland, with 31 percent of their lottery revenue donated to charities or good causes. Of the two, Portugal earns the largest revenue by far: €1,728 million for Portugal compared to €735 million for Ireland.

The UK, with 25 percent donated to charities, comes fifth on the list. This is far ahead of Spain and France who only donate 2% each, making them some of the least generous countries in the EU. This is an especially striking fact when you take into account the fact that these two countries earn the most in terms of revenue (€11,019 million and €12,100 million respectively).

Click on the map to get more information about each market

Portugal’s position as the most generous nation in the EU is somewhat surprising if you take into account their recent history. Economic decline since the breaking up of their empire in 1974 due to the “Carnation Revolution”; their three bailout requests from the IMF and EU; and their current all-time-high debt as a percentage of GDP (129%) might make one think Portugal needs to be less generous, but the opposite is true.

It can also be said, however, that people who have less band together to help the less fortunate, and to do what the government cannot. “Jogos Santa Casa”, founded in 1493, is a good example of a Portuguese charitable organization that takes advantage of the lottery system where all proceeds go to good causes such as health, society, culture, and sports.

Although Spain only donates a marginal two percent, the money does go to a variety of NGOs, including well-known organizations, such as the Red Cross, and the blind and disabled members of the organization ONCE..

The table below shows revenues collected by state controlled lottery and gambling operators for 13 European countries, along with percentage of revenues donated to charities and good causes, alongside those rewarded to players as winnings:

Ranking

Country

Revenue collected per year (€m)

Percentage donated to charities or good causes

Percentage rewarded to players

1

Portugal

1729

31%

55%

2

Ireland

735

31%

55%

3

Finland

1911

27%

53%

4

Netherlands

1930

25%

50%

5

United Kingdom

9984

25%

54%

6

Denmark

1278

20%

45%

7

Belgium

1258

18%

53%

8

Norway

3067

16%

75%

9

Sweden

3216

7%

54%

10

Italy

9094

5%

72%

11

Austria

2955

3%

74%

12

Spain

11019

2%

58%

13

France

12100

2%

65%

 

lottery revenues

 

The same figures split by individual lottery and gambling operators show wide discrepancies from operator to operator. In the Netherlands, for example, the three lotteries – BankGiro Loterij, VriendenLoterij – and the Nationale Postcode Loterij all have a 50:30 split in terms of percentages that go to good causes versus those rewarded to players. Obviously, when you give more money to charity the less money you have to give back to players.

The Staatsloterij is an example of the other extreme: it gives 69% of its revenue to players and none to charity, with the remainder going instead to the state treasury. 

 

Lottery / Gambling Operator

Revenues collected per year (€m)

Percentage donated to charities or good causes

Percentage rewarded to players

Main country of operation

Kræftens Bekæmpelse

15

60%

30%

Denmark

BankGiro Loterij

125

50%

30%

Netherlands

VriendenLoterij

101

50%

30%

Netherlands

Nationale Postcode Loterij

624

50%

30%

Netherlands

Kombispel

55

44%

46%

Sweden

Svenska PostkodLotteriet

375

34%

40%

Sweden

Jogos Santa Casa

1729

31%

55%

Portugal

National Lottery

735

31%

55%

Ireland

Veikkaus

1776

28%

54%

Finland

People's Postcode Lottery

43

28%

42%

UK

National Lottery

9823

25%

54%

UK

Miljonlotteriet

62

23%

44%

Sweden

Health Lottery

118

20%

41%

UK

Danske Spil

1263

20%

45%

Denmark

De Lotto

307

20%

56%

Netherlands

Nationale Loterij

1258

18%

53%

Belgium

Norsk Tipping AS

3067

16%

75%

Norway

Ålands Peninngautomatförening (Paf)

135

15%

53%

Finland

Lottomatica

1194

14%

50%

Italy

ONCE

1766

12%

46%

Spain

Folkspel

124

10%

36%

Sweden

SISAL

7900

3%

75%

Italy

Österreichische Lotterien

2955

3%

74%

Austria

Svenska Spel

2600

2%

58%

Sweden

La Française des Jeux

12100

2%

65%

France

LAE

9253

0%

61%

Spain

Staatsloterij

772

0%

69%

Netherlands

 

Just as there are substantial differences among member states in the percentage given to charity, there is a lot of variance in the specific priority areas for lottery funding.

The main beneficiary of lottery funding is sport: state lotteries in Europe generate funding for sport of more than two billion euros each year, of which the vast majority goes to grassroots sport. For example, the only beneficiary from "La Française des Jeux" lottery games (aside from the winning players and the state's treasury) is the National Sports Development Centre, relying on 80 percent of of its budget on this income. Similarly, De Lotto in the Netherlands gives 73 percent of its donations to the Dutch Olympic Committee.

Charities and projects in the social sector – e.g. in the field of social inclusion – are the second main beneficiary of lottery funding.

Development has the highest priority in Belgium, while Finland focuses more on culture, where the profits of state-owned Veikkaus is used to promote Finnish culture in the areas of arts, science, sports and youth work.

Methodology
Data was collected from individual lottery and gambling operators in October 2015. Profits that were returned to the state treasury were only counted towards the good cause / charity element if they were specifically earmarked for a given cause.

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