What do the Irish Lottery, Shergar and Squid Game All Have in Common?

Most politicians have a keen sense of when a sound bite is going to click in the public’s imagination. And taking cultural references from both modern times and the past is always going to be a good starting point. That’s certainly what Irish MP for the Fine Gael party Bernard Durkan realised when he made a comment relating to a controversy centred around the Irish Lottery.

In a record-making run of 33 weeks starting on June 5th 2021, the big jackpot prize had remained unclaimed. Each week it rose as the Wednesday and Saturday draw failed to come up with the six numbers needed for anyone to win. Eventually, the possible jackpot reached €19.06 million, way, way above the minimum possible jackpot for this particular lottery of €2 million.

Questions were being asked in the Irish parliament with one of the most vocal members being Bernard Durkan. As well as demanding an official enquiry, it was soon after this that he made the rather sarcastic remark that there was more chance of the horse that had been caught up in a kidnap mystery nearly 40 years ago winning in the Netflix hit series of 2021, Squid Game.

In reaction to the situation, and to prevent a similar one from occurring in the future, the organisers of the lottery made the decision that the jackpot would be won in the draw to be held on Saturday, January 15th even if there wasn’t a single winning ticket.

This was because they would introduce something called a flow-down in that specific draw. If no one person had the six winning numbers on their lottery ticket, the €19.06 million would be shared out equally between ticket holders with five winning numbers plus the bonus ball. If there were none of these then it would flow down to people with just five numbers, and so on. This was an idea that had already been introduced in the EuroMillions draw when a similar situation had occurred.

In addition, €19.06 million, was set as the highest possible cap for the Irish jackpot and any time in the future when it reaches this level and remains unclaimed for at least five draws then the flow-down method will be used.

In actual fact, when it came to the draw on January 15th there was no need for it. That’s because, after 65 jackpot-less draws, a single ticket holder won the whole €19.06 million, with numbers 2,9,16, 30, 37 and 40. So far, the winner has remained anonymous but it is known that the winning ticket was bought in Castlebar, County Mayo. What is even more remarkable is just how many winners of big EuroMillions prizes have bought tickets in this town, population a little over 12,000, in the west of Ireland. In the space of seven years, there have been jackpots of €15 million, €17 million and €29 million.

Maybe it’s something in the water. Perhaps it’s the luck of the Irish, but this really may seem to be less likely than Shergar winning Squid Game.