Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Scourge of Gambling Grows


I have just read an article in the Sunday Star Times suggesting that soon Lotto players will be able to buy their instant scratchies online, to increase the size of Big Wednesday prizes, to decrease the size of counters so smaller shops can sell tickets, and that lotto tickets can be sold at the supermarket checkout (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/5261862/Gambling-itch-may-get-more-scratch).

As McEnroe might say, 'you can't be serious!'

Aside from the inconvenience of waiting minutes longer at already understaffed supermarkets' checkouts while the checkout operators have to process this nonsense, this is not good for NZ in any way whatsoever (IMHO).

The explicit goal of the new policy is, to quote the article, 'to get casual customers to gamble more often.' What the! This is from the NZ Lotteries 'Statement of Intent' for the next two years, the work of their CEO, a certain Todd McLeay. He openly states that his goal is to 'encourage the 86% of New Zealanders who play the lottery to spend more.' He states, 'We know many of them have intentions to buy but for various reasons they don't get round to it. If we can improve the convenience of purchase then we'll go some of the way to helping attract them to play more frequently.' They are also replacing billboards with 600 digital signs, to get into sync with consumer behaviour. It is insidious, intentional, and corrupt.

Little wonder that the Problem Gambling Foundation see the sale of Instant Kiwi online as a 'ticking timebomb!'

I cannot believe this. In an age where more and more people are struggling, jobs are hard to get, the gap between rich and poor grows, and gambling figures are on the rise, this is stunningly dumb! This is about seducing more and more people seeking to make it rich quick into wasting their money on something they are never likely to win. It feeds our consumerist lust, luring us with the fake dream of prosperity! It will see more and more lives wrecked. Online gambling is uncontrolled, one can fritter away all one has without anyone else knowing, it is without restraint.

I find it especially distasteful the way that gambling is run as a business with a CEO and driven by the profit motive. Todd McLeay is clearly motivated as with any CEO with the bottom line. So we have the fusion of the problems of consumerism with the motive of personal greed, it is greed upon greed. It is sick in my view. It is enough that we make gambling easier and easier, but we buttress it with the power of consumerism to seduce New Zealanders to part with their hard earned money with the myth that they will get rich. It is the god of mammon at its very best. It is abhorrent and evil.

We should be encouraging people to save, invest wisely, avoid debt, and spend their money on good wholesome things like family, education, health, their future, and of course, the care of others in need! Not to seduce them into something that is as likely as being hit by lightening 4 times in succession!

The whole thing is dumb, further evidence of a society self-destructing. Just as putting alcohol into supermarkets and recreational drugs into dairies has further fuelled our nation's problems with these things, this will further fuel our problems with gambling.

It will be the poor that are abused most by it of course – it always is. The article claims 71% of lotto players come from poor areas and that Maori spend more than the rest of the population on Lotto. It will be their children who go without. It will be their marriages that are torn apart. It will be their wives and kids beaten. It will fuel crime as people get desperate. It is disgusting!

As I write this too I ponder the oft-discussed question of whether churches and church-established trusts should take money from gambling for their ministries. I have always felt uncomfortable in that the church has historically (as it should have), given leadership against the scourge of gambling. I ask, how can the church continue to speak out with a clear untainted voice while on the other hand taking its profits? Sure, you can justify it by saying, better that we get it than the crowd down the road. The truth is however, in taking the money, you are giving tacit support to the enterprise. It seems contradictory to me, despite recognising that one can mount an ethical argument – I just don't think it is a strong one. 

Are we getting to the stage where churches and Christian Trusts need to rethink and, despite the cost, refuse to take that money, so that we can stand against it with our full force and might? Our voice should be the loudest against gambling and its abuse of the poor. We should be there to support those who are in its evil grip. Now more than ever, we cannot be compromised as this scourge deepens. The whole system is driven by greed, self-aggrandisement, injustice, and oppression. It oppresses, and leads to indebtedness and can result in crime as people get desperate. I think it is.

I pray that this will be stopped, and indeed, gambling laws will tighten rather than loosen.

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