Health professionals concerned over online gambling

By Regan Paranihi

New Zealand’s largest Māori public health organisation has serious concerns over the online gambling products recently launched by the Lotteries Commission.

Hāpai Te Hauora works to minimise the harm of problem gambling at both regional and national levels.

General Manager Māori Public Health for Hāpai Te Hauora Anthony Hawke says, “Relationship building is an essential aspect of harm minimisation which is eliminated in an online environment." 

He says they appreciate that the app has security measures in place, but they are lacking in providing interventions to minimise the harm of gambling. 

General Manager, Corporate Communications and Social Responsibility of Lotto New Zealand, Emilia Mazur says Lotto NZ is committed to providing a safe and friendly gaming environment that encourages responsible play.

"Responsible play is all about having fun, being informed and knowing your limits. We worked closely with our government regulators to establish the right safeguards to deliver Instant Play games responsibly online." 

Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, Shaun Robinson says, “ Access to addictive gambling products such as pokie machines and online gambling are a significant public health hazard with major mental health implications. They make the stresses experienced by those in poor communities worse and compound mental health problems.” 

"The Lotteries Commission has been pushing for online gambling for over ten years. Successive governments have looked at the case for it, been told that it's a big risk, but nobody put their foot down and said - this isn't going to happen here. It's a travesty," says Hawke.

"Lotto NZ exists to generate essential funding for the community, by providing fun games that allow New Zealanders to play and win. In December last year, we launched Instant Play – the online equivalent to Instant Kiwi, which New Zealanders have been playing in-store for almost 30 years," says Mazur.

Robinson says there needs to be political support, community support and individual will to confront these social issues and to improve the well-being of New Zealanders.

“We urge the Lotteries Commission to consider the social good and to make a decision not to proceed with these gambling products."