The Lottery Office in Australia has seen a 70.6% increase in use during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the increase was met positively by office officials, it has sparked concerns amongst advocacy groups.
In a report this week by Savings.com.au, The Lottery Office CEO Jaclyn Wood said there was a 127% growth in the use of its platform among 20 to 29-year-olds over the same period.
She was quoted as saying: “To our surprise, we saw a whole new generation of players as more social forms of betting were put on hold until sporting events returned. Usually, we would only experience this level of interest from this age group when a jackpot exceeds half a billion dollars.”
However, Chief Advocate for the Alliance of Gambling Reform, Reverend Tim Costello, cited the platform’s ‘celebration’ as “plain tone-deaf” when speaking to Savings.com.au.
He stated: “People are gambling more as a way of self-soothing, or with the false hope gambling may solve their problems. Gambling increases in times of crisis, and it’s not a positive thing.”
The Lottery Office states it’s the only platform that allows Australians to enter lotteries from around the world. While it is not a synthetic lottery – where there are no real stakes, only bets on the outcomes – overseas lotteries are simulated in the Northern Territory under government supervision.
Once a customer buys a ticket through The Lottery Office, the company then purchases a matching ticket in an overseas lottery, allowing prizes to be won without insurance policies.
Wood said after the pandemic hit, the platform expected its players to “tighten their purse strings,” adding: “2020 has proven to be an unbelievable year of growth for our business, which was not at all what we expected when COVID-19 cases started popping up in Australia.
“We know that many people have been directly impacted by the closure of businesses across the country, which is why we have individual and weekly spend limits to protect players.”
The Lottery Office CEO also revealed since the platform’s inception two years ago, it has donated $525,000 to various charities, and more than a third of that ($177,000) has been donated since March.
However, Costello countered this and stated: “The gambling industry is notorious for promoting the ‘benefits’ it passes on to the community when these are most often minuscule compared to their profits.
“If this company was handing over a decent percentage of its profits to the community, they’d be specifying how much that percentage is instead of hiding behind vague statements.”