Lotto NZ’s proposal to increase online gambling options raises concerns

By Oscar Francois

Lotto is planning a third weekly draw and a significant increase in its online gaming options, the Otago Daily Times found.

01.11.2016 Photo shoot for Lotto New Zealand.  Mandatory photo credit ©Michael Bradley.

Photo: Provided / Lotto NZ

But the changes – which Lotto said are not yet concrete and some of which would require ministerial approval – have worried social agencies. Lotto could suck in desperate people already struggling with the rising cost of living.

The documents obtained by the Otago Daily Times show that the New Zealand Lotteries Commission (Lotto NZ) is in the process of procuring a replacement for the gaming system, with a view to increasing the number of digital products it offers.

The gaming system is at the heart of Lotto NZ’s operations, encompassing both digital and paper systems.

Calls for Expressions of Interest for the contract note the potential to increase the number of games Lotto NZ can offer, pending the government’s review of online gambling.

Responses to questions posed by potential providers revealed that Lotto NZ is planning to introduce a third draw and rapidly increase its online revenue.

It wants to migrate as many retail players online as possible and also uses contractors to provide a much wider range of online gaming options to better compete with international players.

The documents showed he was particularly focused on increasing revenue from instant reward online gambling, saying it presented a big opportunity.

The documents say Lotto NZ has reached an agreement to change spending controls on online gambling – which are in place to limit problem gambling – which would “make it easier for players to play”.

“We are doing a lot of work to understand how big this category could be. We think it could double what it is today without too much effort.”

It also aimed to achieve AI-powered behavior analytics and capture more data on how games were consumed.

The docs said “the metaverse and gamification more broadly” was part of what success would look like half a decade from now.

Lotto NZ was also planning to deliver prizes to digital wallets.

Methodist Mission South director Laura Black said New Zealand was in the third year of a pandemic with significant and continuing effects on mental health.

The cost of living was rising and as things got tighter people had less resilience, she said.

Making the game easier in this environment could be of concern, she said.

“I think you run the risk that something that looks like it’s designed for middle-class people to have fun actually sucks in people who are a little more desperate than that,” Black said.

The danger was in the incitement and the incitement for the people running the lotto was to push the boundaries, so it was important to have guide rails, she said.

Problem Gambling Foundation marketing and communications director Andree Froude said some forms of gambling are more harmful than others.

For example, lotto was less harmful than Instant Kiwi online games, which were faster.

Online gambling was riskier because people could hide their behavior and it was available around the clock in people’s living rooms, she said.

Lotto NZ said the documents did not represent concrete plans.

Any changes to the games had to go through a “thorough and robust” process, including ministerial approval.

New security mechanisms would likely be introduced, including a behavioral analysis tool that would only be used to minimize damage, a pop-up window suggesting players take a break, and a daily game limit.

Lotto planned to keep its current default deposit limit – $150 per week – and was required by its charter to minimize damages.

Expressions of interest were sought as the gaming system was approximately 20 years old and a new long-term supplier was sought.

Home Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti said reducing harm from gambling was one of her top priorities and she met regularly with Lotto NZ executives to keep abreast of any proposed changes.

Lotto NZ demanded her approval to introduce new games and she sought advice, particularly from a harm minimization perspective, before making a decision, she said.

This story originally appeared in the Otago Daily Times.

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