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Online Gambling Developments in New Zealand

By: Adam Richards, Tuesday July 12th 2011
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Recent developments in New Zealand show that the online gambling scenario there is playing out the same way as in most unregulated markets. Online gambling is not allowed in New Zealand and there is no move to legalize and regulate it. Yet the national lottery has announced plans to exploit the Internet to boost the sales of one of its most popular products.

According to a report by TVNZ, the national Lottery Commission has released a statement of intent for the next two financial years. The projected plans include selling lotto tickets in supermarkets and making Instant Kiwi 'scratchies' available online. Currently these tickets are available at retail outlets. Instant Kiwi completed 20 years in 2009 and its popularity has gone from strength to strength. It has been reported that every week New Zealanders buy 900,000 Instant Kiwi scratchies and $1 million is paid out. Increasing the time New Zealanders spend gambling is also an objective of the Lottery Commission.

The Problem Gambling Foundation has reacted negatively to the news. Speaking to TV ONE's Breakfast This Morning, the Foundation's spokesman Graham Aitken issued a strong statement. He said, "You get online and start buying these things and start losing your rationality and start losing quite big money." Aitken pointed out that five years ago about 40 people reported problem gambling issues. Now this number has gone over 200. With Instant Kiwi going online there will be greater incidence of problem gambling.

Reacting to the popularity of Instant Kiwi, Aitken admitted that Lotto is usually harmless for the majority of people. He said the issue was the uncertainty that comes with online gambling. "Whether it's going to burgeon and go out of control, we don't know. We know that it's starting but we don't know how far it's going to go," he said.
According to the Department of Internal Affairs and Health Sponsorship Council research 71% of Lotto players live in poor areas and 13% of people say they spend more money on Lotto than they mean to.

NZ Lotteries' chief executive Todd McLeay downplayed the news stating that there has been no initiative taken as of now to introduce scratchies online. He pointed out that government permission would be required before this move could be implemented. He added that while adding online products in the future they would ensure that their high standards of social responsibility are met. But Aitken is not buying this story. According to him the fact that the proposal is on the Lottery Commission's statement of intent has to count for something.

The larger issue of regulated online casinos is not even being discussed. It is known that players from New Zealand wager at offshore online casinos, and some online casinos like Vegas Palms even accept deposits in New Zealand dollars.

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