New Zealand’s Gambling Act 2003 is “old” and “not really fit for purpose”, the Problem Gambling Foundation has said.
It comes after RNZ revealed on Monday that nearly 70% of lotto store sales come from the poorer half of the community.
Lotto accepts that there are too many stores in low-income areas.
The Problem Gambling Foundation’s director of marketing and communications, Andree Froude, told Breakfast that they were “pretty shocked that it was as high as 70%.”
“We know that over 50% of the poker rooms are in our poorer communities, and often with alcohol and fast food outlets, they are often in the poorer communities, that just means that these communities are disproportionately affected,” she said.
READ MORE: Lotto stores in New Zealand’s poorest half account for 70% of sales
Froude says the lotto “isn’t necessarily problematic unless you buy tickets and can’t put food on the table.”
New Zealand “absolutely” have a problem with gambling harm, she said, adding that gambling problems are “so easy to hide”.
“If someone has a problem with alcohol or drugs, you see the physical signs and the clues, whereas gambling is so much easier to hide.”
She says that while one in five Kiwis will be affected by problem gambling in some form or another in their lifetime, there is “so much stigma that people often don’t seek help until they are not really at their lowest”.
“They’ve lost their homes, their relationships. They can be suicidal – something drastic has to happen before they often ask for help.”
READ MORE: Lotto has warned that a $25 million online bingo plan could create more damage
It follows Lotto’s planned rollout of an online bingo game early next year, which is expected to fetch $25 million in the first year, according to a submission for approval by Home Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti.
Tinetti paused on the proposal pending a review of the online game.
“I’ve always had harm minimization in mind. I’ve seen too many gambling issues. I’ve seen too many families who have been hurt and hurt,” she told RNZ.
“I have been quite open with Lotto that I will not make any decisions regarding online bingo until we have reviewed the entire online gambling regulatory regime.
Froude said more needed to be done to regulate gambling, adding that the Gambling Act 2003 was “old” and “not really fit for purpose”.
“Something has to happen there and there has to be much harsher consequences for those gambling operators who have harmful products in our communities, so that if they don’t take effective responsibility for the host, they should be held accountable.”
She urged anyone concerned about their gambling to take a free, confidential test on the Problem Gambling Foundation website to determine if they are “still just playing for fun” and to “seek help before it does.” get really bad.”