The New Zealand Lotteries Commission (Lotto NZ) is being advised by a gambling harms expert to drop plans to launch a new online bingo game next year.
As reported by RNZ, Lotto NZ is readying its bingo game for release in early 2023, with the aim of making an extra $25m from the game in its first year.
Lotto NZ has already submitted its proposals for approval to the Minister of Affairs.
However, Maria Bellringer, Director of Auckland University of Technology’s Gambling and Addictions Research Centre and a member of Lotto NZ’s expert advisory panel, has called online bingo a form of “continuous gambling”.
Bellinger cites a major difference between bingo and the lottery as justification for the former’s ties with problem gambling.
In bingo, players can immediately reinvest their winnings, while players have to wait hours or even days for the result of a lottery draw.
Bellringer also shared her fears over the new game for the Māori and Pasifika communities.
According to the Health Promotion Agency‘s 2020 Health and Lifestyles Survey, Māori are three times more likely to be moderate-risk or problem gamblers than non-Māori, while Pasifika are 2.5 times more likely.
“I really feel that making bingo highly accessible by putting it online, is going to increase the risk of harm for Māori and Pacific communities,” she said.
This notion was actually referenced by Lotto NZ in its submission to the Minister of Internal Affairs Jan Tinetti.
“Lotto NZ recognises the research and data showing that Pacific peoples, Māori, some Asian communities and people on lower incomes disproportionately experience gambling harm,” wrote Lotto NZ CEO Chris Lyman.
“We know that bingo is a familiar game among Pasifika communities around New Zealand, and is adopted for socialising, entertainment, and one-off fundraising efforts.”
To “better protect Pacific people from potential gambling harm”, Lotto NZ would include bingo as “a topic for discussion” within its responsible gambling programme for this community.
“With regards to bingo, Lotto NZ will also ensure that our games do not have features that specifically or deliberately appeal to Pasifika communities – for example, via the design of the theme or artwork on bingo games.”
Tinetti has halted the lottery’s plans while she considers a review of the entire online gambling sector, a decision which Lyman expressed disappointment in during a stakeholder meeting in June 2022.
This news has come to the forefront following an investigation into Lotto NZ by Australian publication RNZ, who also recently published a report on upcoming closures to some of its shops following alleged social errors.