The problem Gambling Foundation oversteps its role in calling for a cut in the size of Lotto jackpots on the grounds that they "fuel a gambling environment" and lure more people into gambling.
Most New Zealanders would sympathise with the foundation's aims and support strict controls on the operation of casinos and establishments that operate pokie machines. But it is stretching a point to put Lotto in the category of a problem-gambling risk. It offers restricted opportunities for participation and is not typically driven by the compulsive behaviour found in other forms of gambling. What's more, it returns around 45 per cent of what's left after prize payouts - more than $171 million last year - to worthwhile community projects.
The foundation says that some people use Lotto to mitigate losses sustained elsewhere and that seven out of 10 Lotto players come from the most economically disadvantaged groups in society. Both points are well made - but they are not arguments for capping the prize maxima. When a prize pool jackpots to $30 million, it does not suddenly assume an appeal that had eluded the problem gambler when it was $15 million.
If changes are needed to the payouts, it would be better to boost the prizes for lower divisions. Punters are plainly fixated on their one-in-many-millions chance of winning the big prize, but it seems sensible to spread the lucky largess around a bit. The fourth- and fifth-division prizes are laughable and little more than teasers to play again.
In these financially pressed times, a few dozen payouts of several thousand would be more sensible than the winner-take-all approach. If that means capping jackpots, so be it. But limiting the prizes solely to discourage problem gambling is an overreaction.