On­line Lotto buy­ing wor­ries bud­get ad­viser

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Imo­gen Neale

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

stu­dent

Photo: SHANE WENZLICK

No ball: Vai Har­ris says on­line Lotto will open the door to se­ri­ous gam­bling debt.

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