Alarm as Lotto eyes ‘on­line scratchies’

The Dominion Post - - Front Page - SIMON HENDERY

Lotto is work­ing on plans to sell ‘‘on­line scratchies’’, in a move that has alarmed the Prob­lem Gam­bling Foun­da­tion.

In a newly re­leased ten­der doc­u­ment, Lotto NZ has called for pro­pos­als from com­pa­nies that cre­ate ‘‘in­stant win games’’.

It wants to run the games through its MyLotto plat­form, which has more than 400,000 reg­is­tered users.

In the ten­der doc­u­ment, Lotto says it sees po­ten­tial to boost its on­line sales with the in­stant-win games, which com­bine the ‘‘fa­mil­iar­ity’’ of In­stant Kiwi scratchies with ‘‘the in­no­va­tion and in­ter­ac­tiv­ity’’ of play­ing on­line.

In­stant-win games – which al­low users to gam­ble small sums per punt via web­sites or through mo­bile apps – have proven a pop­u­lar rev­enue gen­er­a­tor for lot­tery agen­cies in other coun­tries.

Lotto said yes­ter­day that, if the pro­posal went ahead, mea­sures would be put in place to en­sure users gam­bled re­spon­si­bly.

But the Prob­lem Gam­bling Foun­da­tion says over­seas ev­i­dence sug­gests the games’ ar­rival here would in­crease harm by mak­ing a new form of in­stant gam­bling eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble, via means such as smart­phones.

‘‘In an on­line en­vi­ron­ment, there is real po­ten­tial for this to be quite harm­ful,’’ foun­da­tion spokes­woman An­dree Froude said.

‘‘It would mean that 24/7 you’re car­ry­ing around the op­por­tu­nity to gam­ble like this in your pocket.’’

The foun­da­tion was also con­cerned that in­stant-win games would al­low Lotto to col­lect in­for­ma­tion from pun­ters, which would al­low it to un­der­take ‘‘ag­gres­sive and targeted ad­ver­tis­ing’’ aimed at cer­tain groups, in­clud­ing young peo­ple.

‘‘The devil will def­i­nitely be in the de­tail in terms of how they pro­tect consumers with this type of game,’’ Froude said.

Lotto’s ten­der doc­u­ment says its pro­posal for in­stant-win games would re­quire ‘‘reg­u­la­tory ap­proval’’.

At $125 mil­lion, an­nual sales of In­stant Kiwi scratchies cur­rently ac­count for about 15 per cent of Lotto’s re­tail rev­enue.

In­tro­duc­ing in­stant-win games would be ‘‘a nat­u­ral choice given the suc­cess of In­stant Kiwi in con­junc­tion with the rev­enue po­ten­tial seen in other [over­seas] lot­tery ju­ris­dic­tions’’, the doc­u­ment says.

A Lotto spokes­woman said the pos­si­bil­ity of launch­ing in­stant-win games was first sig­nalled a cou­ple of years ago, but re­mained just a pro­posal.

It was work­ing with other gov­ern­ment agen­cies ‘‘to en­sure that any risk of po­ten­tial prob­lem gam­bling as­so­ci­ated with this game will be min­imised’’.

MyLotto users were al­ready sub­jected to ‘‘re­spon­si­ble play’’ mea­sures, in­clud­ing a manda­tory $500 a month spend­ing limit.

If in­stant-win games were launched, Lotto would in­tro­duce fur­ther mea­sures, in­clud­ing manda­tory age ver­i­fi­ca­tion and en­forced play breaks, the spokes­woman said.

As with In­stant Kiwi, the new games would be ex­ter­nally au­dited to en­sure pay­outs were in line with pun­ters’ ex­pec­ta­tions.

A spokesman for In­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Peter Dunne said it was early days for the pro­posal, but the min­is­ter had been as­sured by Lotto that it would work along­side the Min­istry of Health’s gam­bling harm team, and con­sult the Prob­lem Gam­bling Foun­da­tion as it de­vel­oped its plans.

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