A Prize Bond is a non-interest bearing security issued on behalf of the Minister for Finance of the Republic of Ireland by the Prize Bond Company Limited. Funds raised are used to offset government borrowing and are refundable to the bond-owner, on demand. Interest is returned to bond-owners via prizes which are distributed by means of random selection of bonds for the prizes.
The Finance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1956 (Part V) is the primary legislation under which the bonds are authorised. Bonds where first sold in March 1957, with the first draw held in September of that year. Originally the Bank of Ireland, as the governments banker, was the operator of the scheme. When the scheme commenced the biannual draws, in September and March, whereby means of six drums the winning serial number was drawn randomly; in 1972 the serial number was increased from six to seven digits for bonds issued after that time. In 1993 regulation was made for the conduct of the draws on a weekly basis and by a computer driven random number generator, been software based, to determine winning numbers. In the United Kingdom, a similar investment scheme called Premium Bond also originated in early 1957.
The Prize Bond Company is a joint venture between the founders An Post and FEXCO and is based in Killorglin, County Kerry. The company was created in 1989 with issued share capital between the founders of 50% each and will operate the scheme under its current contract until October 31, 2009. Employees of the Prize Bond Company are seconded from the respective partner, FEXCO is responsible for administration, whilst An Post is responsible for accounting and marketing in addition to conducting the draws.
The National Treasury Management Agency has since its establishment, in 1990, had authority over regulation.
Originally bonds could be purchased as in units of £5(Punt), with a minimum purchase of £10 been required. Currently a unit is €6.25 and a minimum purchase of €25. Weekly prizes, drawn on Fridays at 12:30 in the GPO, Dublin, range from €75 to a jackpot of €20,000, except on the first draw every month when the jackpot is €150,000. The annual prize giveaway is 2.4% of the total fund. Winnings are tax free within the Republic of Ireland. Recently there has been some concern that the bonds do not represent value for money for the government, in particular the cost of administration relative to the cost of interest on borrowings