New Zealand Lottery Faces Mounting Pressure Over Children Buying Tickets

Responsible gambling is the leading topic in the gaming industry, with a global push to keep minors away from the activity. New Zealand has found itself in a difficult position following the revelation that it has bypassed this policy with its lottery products.

New Zealand Lotto
New Zealand Lotto
A kiosk displays New Zealand Lotto products. The revelation that children as young as seven years old have bought tickets is likely to bring changes to the industry. (Image: Retail Dimension)

They don’t even have to be tall enough to see over the counter, but children as young as nine or even seven years old can buy lottery tickets in New Zealand. Almost everywhere else around the world, the minimum age is 18. Australia is one exception, allowing 16-year-olds to buy certain gambling products.

The revelation surfaced following a study the Auckland University of Technology’s Gambling and Addictions Research Centre conducted, according to media outlet RNZ. The department’s director, Maria Bellringer, led the research, and the results are likely to force changes.

Lotto Like Lollipops

Just like buying candy, young children have access to Lotto products in New Zealand. Keno, Bullseye and other gambling options are readily available. The only exception is Instant Kiwi, which has a minimum age of 18.

Bellinger’s results come from a study of children of the Pasifika ethnic group. This connotation applies to Pacific Islanders and is a definition government agencies use to “describe both migrants from the Pacific regions and their descendants,” according to a New Zealand Government website.

I was absolutely gobsmacked that a 7-year-old, or 10-year-old, could walk into a Lotto outlet and purchase a Lotto ticket,” said Problem Gambling Foundation spokesperson Andree Froude.

The study focused on the gambling habits of around 900 Pasifika 9-year-old children in the country. It found that 7% of them, at some point, had purchased a ticket for New Zealand’s Lotto draw. Previous studies have shown that gambling prior to 13 increases the risk of problem gambling.

Bellinger pointed out that almost anyone is able to buy a Lotto ticket in the country because there is no legal age restriction. She emphasized that most people participate without any issues, but that allowing children to gamble is a different story.

Allowing them to buy a ticket goes too far in normalizing the activity from a young age. In addition, it doesn’t foster a sense of responsibility and an appreciation of the gambling aspect of the lottery.

Lotto’s Hands Are Tied

RNZ spoke to Lotto CEO Chris Lyman about the lack of an age restriction. He pointed out that it would accept a minimum age like that found in other countries. However, under New Zealand law, the company cannot legally make the change.

The Gambling Act included the minimum age of 18 in the language when it created the Instant Kiwi brand of products. However, everything else remains exempt, according to Lyman. He emphasized that New Zealand will have to change its gambling laws if it wants to alter the age requirements.

That could be coming sooner rather than later. Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti told RNZ that the government is now addressing the concern. However, she didn’t say when it will make its decision.

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