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Hāpai Te Hauora Warns Against Dependence On Gambling Proceeds As New $40m Lotto Fund Announced

The Lotto Community Wellbeing Fund was announced this week by Minister of Internal Affairs Tracy Martin, Presiding Member of the Lottery Grants Board. The new $40 million fund is targeted to community and social activities in response to COVID-19.

Whilst the fund is a welcome announcement for communities, Māori public health advocates are concerned that the fund is a double-edged sword, with New Zealand’s lottery grants system wagering on the addictions of vulnerable communities to fund the grants themselves.

Hāpai Te Hauora Interim CEO, Jason Alexander acknowledges the Lottery Grants Board for doing their part to support community-driven COVID-19 response efforts, as the second wave of COVID-19 community transmission, affects Aotearoa, but warns against yet another form of dependence on gambling proceeds.

"We acknowledge that, within the current system, the Lottery Grants Board is doing their part to support communities in the context of disruption from COVID-19. But the system itself is failing, and it’s placing the burden of this moral dilemma on those communities, whilst other parts within this system profit."

Alexander continues "While this fund will provide much-needed relief for community services who have lost access to funding sources and are experiencing increased demand on their services, this is only a temporary solution and speaks to the wider issues of gambling funding dependence, inequitable distribution of funding and the social burden of gambling funding,"

NZ Lotteries was established by the Government in 1987 and is charged with the responsibility of promoting and conducting lotteries to generate profits for the benefit of New Zealand communities. Inferences can be made about the social burden of gambling based on the rate of participation by ethnicity, specifically Māori communities. The most recent HPA Health and Lifestyle Survey (HLS) shows that Māori are more likely to purchase lotto products than non-Māori. The HLS also shows that those living in areas of high deprivation are more likely to purchase lotto products at least once a week compared with people living in areas of low deprivation.

Kaiwhakahaere for Prevention and Minimisation of Gambling Harm, Tara Dymus says, "Māori communities are more likely to be contributors to the fund, but less likely to be recipients of the grants themselves." She urges that an equity lens be applied in the allocation of funding.

"Māori participation is highest across all forms of gambling and in areas where there is the highest deprivation, the rate of gambling participation is higher. There is evidence to suggest that it is our most impoverished communities who are the greatest contributors to lotto profits."

Dymus continues "Our community roopu have shown incredible resilience in what have been difficult times. The second wave of community transmission has greatly affected Māori and Pacific whānau, so we ask that this grant be prioritised to address inequities, and that it doesn’t foster further dependence on gambling proceeds."

"A wider conversation needs to be had about how community and social enterprises can be supported to operate ethically and sustainably" says Dymus.

The Fund will provide one-off grants and is expected to be up and running in the last quarter of the year.

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