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Irish Sweepstakes Loses to Lotteries, Calls It Quits

Associated Press

The Hospitals Sweepstakes, a 56-year-old Irish institution known worldwide as the Irish Sweepstakes, passed into history today.

The Dublin headquarters of the “sweeps” closed its doors after deciding it could not compete with a state-run lottery soon to be introduced.

Established in 1931, the sweepstakes paid out $400 million in prize money and contributed $200 million to hospital building programs.

At one point, the sweepstakes had the international cash contest field almost to itself. But it fell on hard times after individual states in the United States started lotteries--some offering prizes in the millions of dollars. Proceeds from the United States, the mainstay of the sweepstakes, slumped.

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The sweepstakes, a private company operating with government approval, had been losing money for several years. Recent first prizes have ranged from $150,000 to about $225,000.

The new state-run lottery will offer prizes from $15 to $400,000 and the proceeds will be used to finance projects in health, sports, arts and the Irish language.

Each Irish sweepstakes drawing centered on a horse race and winners were identified when uniformed nurses plucked tickets from a huge drum in the sweepstakes’ offices in the Ballsbridge suburb of Dublin.


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