Online Lotto buying worries budget adviser
A move to allow people to buy their weekly Lotto ticket over the internet has budgeting adviser Vai Harris “seriously worried”.
Within a few weeks people will be able to buy Big Wednesday, Powerball, Strike, Keno and Saturday Lotto tickets from their home computer using their credit cards.
Lotteries Commission spokeswoman Karen Jones says a start date has yet to be confirmed but is expected within the next month.
Ms Harris, the manager of Mangere’s Vaiola Pacific Island Budgeting Service, says she doesn’t agree with the move “at all”.
“I am very concerned because we’re already struggling to save people from eviction because of their gambling problems. A lot of our clients are already forced into mortgagee sales from their credit card debt.”
Online Lotto players will be able to spend up to $300 a month or $150 in one week. They will have the option of setting lower fixed weekly spending limits.
Ms Jones says Lotto’s online registration process will also allow the Lotteries Commission to put other regulatory controls in place.
If someone spends $300 a month for four months, for example, they would “receive contact from the commission” and “appropriate information on problem gambling”.
But Ms Harris says many people already struggle to find $300 to put towards basics such as food and power and she is questioning why the government is allowing the move to go ahead.
“Are they trying to harm people in the community?”
She is also worried children might be able to access online Lotto without their parents’ knowledge.
Problem Gambling Foundation chief executive John Stansfield says his organisation is “horrified” Lotto tickets will be available online.
With increased access will come increased harm, he says.
“All the rest of the government’s social policies are about closing the gaps. But this goes in entirely the other direction.”
He compares the move to a regressive taxation regime where those with less end up paying more.
It is even more of a “mystery” given that a recently published Department of Internal Affairs report on people’s participation in gaming shows most New Zealanders regard gambling as socially undesirable, he says.
Mr Stansfield says the government had not taken any steps to consult the community and organisations like the Problem Gambling Foundation about the move.
“The government has ignored it as hard as possible. They’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid consultation.”
It hasn’t even consulted its own expert advisory group on gambling, he says.
Manukau city councillor Colleen Brown says New Zealand’s three largest cities, Christchurch, Auckland and Manukau, had adopted “sinking lid policies” on gambling venues and that should have sent the government a clear message.
Listening to school principals or organisations like the Salvation Army talk about the impact gambling has on children is “heartbreaking”, she says. She is “totally against” the online move.
Mr Stansfield says he hopes people will have open discussions with their families about whether they can afford to gamble and if so by how much. If people want to gamble, he says there are alternatives such as Bonus Bonds that don’t leave people out of pocket.
– Imogen Neale is an AUT journalism
No ball: Vai Harris says online Lotto will open the door to serious gambling debt.