RTÉ One, Thursday, 7.00pm

Irish Hospital Sweepstakes

Thirty years ago this year the Irish Hospital Sweepstakes, a lottery set up in 1930 to fund & refurbish Irish hospitals, closed its portholes to the world.

Though legal in Ireland at the time, lotteries were illegal in most other jurisdictions but that didn't dampen worldwide ticket sales. In the Irish Hospital Sweeps' heyday, their tickets were being illegally sold in every corner of the globe, in excess of 170 countries, raking in millions upon millions of pounds.

The Sweep's founders made millions while a paltry 10% of the takings was given over to fund Irish hospitals.

Tonight's episode of SCANNAL looks back at the most famous horse-racing based lottery in the world which exploded with panache and prestige onto the stage of the Mansion House in 1930. Wall Street had crashed but the world's eyes were on Dublin where two blind boys, with uniformed nurses and a Garda commissioner present, pulled tickets from a drum.

But lurking beneath the wholesome scenes of pageantry and elaborate draws, there was something quite different.

There was worldwide ticket smuggling, law enforcement problems, tickets sold abroad that never made it back to Ireland and tickets that never even made it into the drum.

When the Sweepstakes ceased operations in 1987, their loyal and diligent work force of mostly women were left with tiny redundancy payments and weren't properly compensated until 2000.

Producer/Director- Seán Ó Méalóid
Reporter- Sinéad Ní Churnáin

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