Online gambling: take advantage of others… once again
NOTICE: I’m sick of government policies that often put profit generation above the real needs of our whānau and local communities; for example, how the game works in Aotearoa.
The game is celebrated, promoted and more and more standardized in our country. But the damage to lives is routinely hidden and not publicly discussed.
I work for the Salvation Army, a Christian church serving people and whānau in difficult situations. Oasis is our gambling harm treatment and support service, serving people across the country. We see daily the real and significant damage people face as a result of their gambling addiction, and the link between gambling and homelessness, financial hardship, lack of food and other social issues.
Gaming supporters like to point out the benefits of gambling to the community because of the distribution of gambling losses among community groups. But think about it carefully. In my mind, things just don’t add up.
* Gaming spending took off in the last quarter of last year
* Lotto’s online bingo plans under fire
* Call for less slot machines near poor communities
* Phone application developed to curb compulsive gambling behavior
As a nation, we have effectively declared that we accept that some of the money created by gambling losses and damage to slots, casinos and the TAB be used to help those who have suffered. gambling and other critical harms thereof. same play activities.
Your gambling expenses (or your losses, for that matter) can end up paying for the harms and addiction you might develop as a result of this activity.
This is a broken model. Drug addiction and the harms associated with gambling activities fund gambling treatment services for these same addictions and harms.
I am not convinced that any level of charitable funding to the community can effectively mitigate the major damage caused by gambling within these same communities.
For me, the “ community benefit ” argument that gambling providers often claim raises major questions about the morality, effectiveness and legitimacy of the people, whānau and community organizations profiting from the harms of gambling. and the addiction suffered by other New Zealanders, including those in their very own communities.
In this context, I find it astonishing that the government is currently signaling a change in regulations and a possible expansion of online gambling products. The Salvation Army has strongly opposed any expansion of gaming activities throughout our long history. In recent years, we have been strongly opposed to the government supporting a failed racing and betting industry.
Now the government is focusing on online gambling through a review process. The shadow of “profit over people” looms again.
In mid-April, I wrote a short advocacy article titled Just one click away: online gambling in Aotearoa. Online gambling is already legal in Aotearoa via TAB and MyLotto betting. Online gambling is already large and growing.
For example, in 2017-2018 there were 746,000 registered MyLotto players. In 2019-2020, there were 1.2 million registered players. Digital Lotto sales topped $ 430 million in 2019-2020, an 89% increase from the previous year. And the Covid-19 lockdowns were great for these businesses.
Lotto New Zealand said Covid-19 led to much higher than expected player registrations and digital sales.
Our Oasis service reports that the number of people seeking help with online gambling issues has increased over the past year. In early 2020, 5% of Oasis customers sought help with online gambling misdeeds. By the end of 2020, that figure had grown to almost 15% of all Oasis customers. Increased use leads to increased damage.
Given these numbers and the reality of harms and gambling addiction, I believe online gambling has the potential to be even more dangerous for people and whānau than slots and other forms. of gambling because of the ease of access and the private, hidden and isolated nature of this form of gambling. Changes and expansion of regulations are coming for online gambling.
They are just a click away, really. And the case for the welfare and benefits of the community that drives these regulatory changes and the expansion of online gambling are already strong. In my opinion, these arguments essentially prioritize profit over people, income over harm, and the needs of big business over misdeeds and the realities of our whānau and local communities.
* Ronji Tanielu works for the Social and Parliamentary Policy Unit of the Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, Te Ope Whakaora.