A Lotto reasons why grassroots e-commerce play will keep it local

5 Feb 2009

Local sports clubs have already generated over €700,000 on a new gaming site.

IRELAND’S rural communities are the litmus test for the state of the nation, and that’s why the current economic downturn can be seen as a particularly rural tragedy.

In towns and villages across the nation, the economic shock of the loss of construction jobs and factory closures has been severe.

As the spectres of unemployment and emigration begin to pick at the souls of communities, support of the local GAA, golf or soccer club has always been the bond that kept everyone’s morale high.

Local lotteries and raffles are vital ways of funding local sports clubs – especially at a time when state funding is under threat – and a new e-commerce venture has already won the support of close to 350 GAA, rugby, soccer and golf clubs, enabling supporters to enter for prizes online, even from overseas.

Locallotto.ie has been set up by Galway entrepreneur Warren Healy to allow clubs to hold and manage their lotteries online and not just in the local pub. The system allows the lottery organisers to cut down on the administration required, but also allows people who wouldn’t normally have the time, or be in the locality, to support their favourite teams via the internet.

Healy says that during the economic high times local lotteries saw prizes rise to mind-blowing levels, with cars and even houses as the top prizes. But now, cash is king.

“So far, some 350 clubs and organisations are holding their lotteries every week on Locallotto.ie, as well as in their traditional manner. The value of online is that people can sign up and set up micro-payments, so they are always in to win, and can also keep up with club news and see who the jackpot winners are.”

Healy says that Locallotto.ie is the only online lottery service active in Ireland right now because the National Lottery has yet to enable online transactions.

“The clubs who sign up to the system are given a plug-in to the site, and all transactions are run from there. They own everything on the site. They are given an administration panel that gives them a complete, transparent view of all transactions. The value of all this is that you can be living in Australia and still support your local team.”

Locallotto.ie has been a labour of love for Healy over the past four years, and the site has been live for the last six months. “Nobody had done it before, so we were breaking the back of an entirely new concept. We’ve been actively talking with clubs to get them signed up.”

Healy says that the recession is actually accelerating the growth of Locallotto.ie. “Up until last year, clubs just had to ring up local businesses and they’d get sponsorship. But that has changed, and driving support from the grassroots will keeps clubs and societies alive.

“In a way, Barack Obama’s grassroots campaign was inspirational. It’s a little, but it’s a lot of little.”

Healy, who was speaking from outside Kerry County Football Board, where he was making a presentation, says that organisations ranging from the Alzheimers Foundation to sports clubs from the four corners of Ireland have signed up for the service. He adds that Locallotto.ie has already begun exporting its model to the UK.

“Looking at the figures, we estimate that some €700,000 has been generated for clubs and societies to date. The maximum prize that can be won is €20,000, down to a minimum of around €500.”

Healy says the National Lottery is missing out by not going online. “The National Lottery in the UK is online. It seems to us that our National Lottery is missing a big trick. The technology exists for it to go online. It’s been talking about it for years, and still nothing’s happened.”

It was while Healy was living in the US for a number of years, and was unable to support his local club of Carna in Connemara, that he had the inspiration for Locallotto.ie. “Now all you have to do is log in, and every time a draw takes place you get an email with the winning numbers and club-related news. People can sign up for their local lottery and pay any way they choose, whether by credit card, debit card or cheque.”

Another key aspect of Locallotto.ie is that clubs can market their lotteries online via a Google AdWords campaign. Security is a major factor, and the site uses SSL (Secure Socket Layer), as well as transaction services from Dublin firm Realex Payments.

Healy’s immediate target is to have 1,000 clubs signed up within a year. “There are approximately 5,000 lotteries taking place on the island of Ireland. The future of these initiatives are purely online from a point of view of keeping the extended community connected, but also in terms of managing the lotteries.

“Local lotteries are usually managed by local volunteers who put a lot of time and passion into drumming up support and administering everything from selling tickets to managing the money. Locallotto.ie takes the management of a local lottery from typically four to five hours for three people down to 10 minutes a week for one person.”

He adds there is another important reason for keeping local lotteries and clubs supported. “Most sports funding and major funding for clubs will be cut in the year ahead. Clubs will have to be more reliant on themselves. The internet will be vital for keeping people connected and engaged with their local clubs.”

By John Kennedy