Last week the Minister of Internal Affairs let the Lotteries Commission introduce online gaming for Lotto products. Online gambling is a highly addictive form of gambling which targets people while they are alone and isolated from their communities.
As a safety precaution the Minister has limited the amount that someone can spend on online gambling to $150 a week, which seems odd given that beneficiaries have the highest reported rate of expenditure on gambling, according to the Department of Internal Affairs, and that a single person under 25 years old on the unemployment benefit is entitled to $153.46 a week (or over $184.17 if they are 25 or over).
Why did the Department not want the last $3.46?
Yesterday in Parliament the Minister failed to give an assurance that he would not extend on line gambling to include even more addictive forms of gambling such as instant gambling and scratchies. He then faced this question from Sue Bradford:
Sue Bradford: How does the Minister justify introducing a product that can be paid for only by credit card, when such cards attract interest in this country at the moment of up to 24.9 percent; and why on earth is a Labour Government promoting gambling on credit anyway, especially when low-income people are among the most vulnerable to this form of addiction?
Hon RICK BARKER: The problem with transferring money currently is that under most banking proposals money takes days to go through the various accounts. With a credit card, transfer is instantaneous. Or people can get themselves a debit card, which is the same thing but in a positive balance. I have advised the commissioner of the requirement that when the banking system changes, the commission will change with it and will require people to buy positively rather than negatively through credit cards. I accept the member’s point, but this was the only way the innovation could be financed.
And it seems it needs to be financed. After all, the government seems to be addicted to gambling. It delivers significant funding for programmes that it would otherwise have to pay for itself.