NZ's Gambling Act not 'fit for purpose'

NZ's Gambling Act not 'fit for purpose'

New Zealand's Gambling Act 2003 is "old" and "not really fit for purpose", the Problem Gambling Foundation says.

It comes after RNZ on Monday revealed nearly 70% of Lotto shop sales come from the poorest half of the community.

Lotto accepts it has too many stores in low-income areas.

The Problem Gambling Foundation's marketing and communications director, Andree Froude, told Breakfast they were "quite shocked that it was as high as 70%".

"We know that over 50% of pokie venues are in our poorer communities, and often with alcohol outlets and fast food outlets, they are often in the poorer communities so it just means that those communities are being disproportionately impacted," she said.

Froude says Lotto "isn't necessarily problematic unless you're buying tickets and not being able to put food on the table".

New Zealand "absolutely" has a problem with gambling harm, she said, adding that gambling problems are "so easy to hide".

"If somebody has an alcohol problem or a drug problem, you see the physical signs and cues of that, whereas gambling is so much easier to hide."

She says while one in five Kiwis will be impacted by problem gambling in some form in their lifetime, there is "so much stigma so often people don't seek help until they are really at rock bottom".

"They've lost their homes, their relationships. They may be suicidal – something dramatic has to happen before they often seek help."

It follows Lotto's planned rollout of an online Bingo game early next year, which is hoped to make $25 million in the first year, according to a submission for approval by Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti.

Tinetti has pushed pause on the proposal while she waits for an online gambling review.

"At the front of my mind all the time is harm minimisation. I've seen too many issues that have happened with gambling. I've seen too many families that have been hurt and harmed," she told RNZ.

"I have been quite open with Lotto that I will not be making any decisions around online Bingo until we've looked at the whole of the regulatory regime for online gambling."

Froude said more needs to be done to regulate gambling, adding that the Gambling Act 2003 is "old" and "not really fit for purpose".

"Something needs to happen there and there needs to be much tougher consequences for these gambling operators who have harmful products in our communities so that if they don't provide effective host responsibility, then they should be held to account for it."

She urged anyone with concerns about their gambling to take a free and confidential test on the Problem Gambling Foundation website to determine if they are "still gambling just for fun" and to "seek help before it gets really bad".

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