- »New Zealand Lotto Plans to Launch Online Bingo in 2022
New Zealand Lotto Plans to Launch Online Bingo in 2022
Expansion is inevitable in most businesses. In fact, it is often the goal. New Zealand Lotto wants to do just this by offering online bingo games.
While the lottery entity begins the process of finding an online bingo operator to develop a product, build it, and help NZ Lotto launch it, opponents are already speaking out. The Problem Gambling Foundation is the first and wants a plan for addressing potential gambling harm from the bingo product.
NZ Lotto Looks to Expand
New Zealand Lotto, run by the New Zealand Lotteries Commission, launched in 1987 to offer lottery games to people 18 and older across New Zealand. It offers typical scratchies, lottery drawings, and keno, all games of chance.
In 2008, Lotto’s online product called MyLotto went online. The operator implemented maximum weekly and monthly spending limits, but online access allowed players to save their favourite numbers and even subscribe to regular drawings.
The entirety of profits from the games goes to the NZ Lottery Grants Board, which provides funds to approximately 3,000 community groups and organisations. To date, Lotto NZ has delivered more than $3B to its communities.
In the 2019/2020 financial year, NZ Lotto awarded 13 first-division Powerball wins, including the first-ever $50M prize. In total, forty-five New Zealanders became new millionaires.
MyLotto sales comprised 31% of the total, and that online division increased 19% from the previous year. Instant Kiwi, for example, grew its online sales to $40 million, which was a 64% increase. MyLotto registered new players at an increase of 46% to bring the total to 1.2M.
That same fiscal year transferred $313M to community groups and charities, a 20% increase.
Overall Lotto New Zealand sales increased $1.38B, which was 18% year-over-year.
Bingo Plan in Infancy
The plan for Lotto NZ to launch online bingo from a new online platform is in the earliest of stages. It simply requested that experienced gambling operators submit proposals to run a new online bingo platform with a specific focus on mobile users. Lotto would like the new product to launch in the first half of 2022.
The lottery provider acknowledged that many New Zealanders play online bingo using offshore-based sites, and the goal is to bring it under the Lotto umbrella. It would be an opportunity to regulate the market and deliver profits to communities in need. According to the company itself:
“Bingo represents a strong opportunity to achieve this product expansion with a product that both complements and helps to broaden the appeal of our existing portfolio. It’s very important to us that growth is achieved in a responsible manner, so harm minimisation will be a focus for realizing this opportunity.”
NZ Lotto will accept proposals through March 17.
Concern from PGF
Stuff NZ reported that the Problem Gambling Foundation (PGF) is concerned, especially about the Pasifika community and the potential for increased gambling harm.
The danger to Pasifika groups is that many in those communities participated in housie nights of bingo as group events and/or fundraisers. PGF is concerned that putting bingo online makes it more of a solitary game with the sole focus of winning money, erasing the community aspect.
PGF Marketing Director Andree Froude claims online bingo would be as significant a risk as pokies because of its continuous nature. Players receive an immediate result, producing an opportunity to gamble again immediately. (It is unclear how online bingo is different from scratchers in this way.)
While not outright condemning the plan, Problem Gambling Foundation CEO Paula Snowden hopes to receive a plan from Lotto NZ about its plans to minimise gambling harm specifically from online bingo. She already discussed the risks with the lottery provider but wants more detail.
Lotto NZ Plans for Potential Harm
Lotto Head of Communications and Corporate Responsibility Marie Winfield said the offering of online bingo is natural and a safer alternative for Kiwis, many of whom currently play on sites not regulated by the New Zealand government. Currently, according to Winfield, approximately 280,000 Kiwis play bingo online without NZ oversight.
While she didn’t address the PGF’s concerns about the Pasifika community in particular, Winfield did say that the online bingo platform will offer spending controls, age and location verifications, and limits on session times for players.
PGF also called for a “constructive overview” of the gambling industry in general, which Winfield supports.
Lotto New Zealand plans to submit a formal proposal to the nation’s government later in 2021 with cost estimates, platform information, and its plan to address additional gambling harm from online bingo. This proposal will be plausible only after Lotto speaks with bingo operators and those submitting costs and plans to develop the product.
Lotto NZ and Play Smart
The primary tool by Lotto NZ to combat gambling harm is a program called Play Smart. It consists of tools and tips for players so they can play while also knowing the facts, not to mention signs that gambling may be becoming a problem. And there is contact information on the site for online, phone, or text help in 40 languages.
Play Smart provides the odds for all of the games it offers, including how often players win and the game designs. It also offers information about how to ban oneself from purchasing Lotto products at retail stores.
Online games provide a mandatory spending limit of $150 per week and $500 per month. Players also have the ability to customize those limits to lower amounts or block games entirely. Its latest campaign plays off the phrase, “Know your limit, play within it.”
The World Lottery Association recently recertified Lotto NZ to Level 4, which is the highest possible level regarding responsible gaming.