New Zealand Bans Online Poker But Set To Offer Online Lotto Sales
New Zealanders cannot legally play poker on the Internet, but they will soon be able to buy lottery tickets online, exhibiting the NZ government's protectionist policy towards online gambling, following the path of other countries like the United States who is facing World Trade Organization legal action costing them billions of dollars in compensation to other WTO members for violating trade treaties, and Sweden, France and Germany who are facing legal action from the European Commission for violating EU free trade law within the 27-member states.
New Zealand's Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker has yet to approve the necessary changes to Lotto's game rules, but suggests that may be a formality given "Parliament has previously determined that NZ Lotteries can offer its products over the Internet".
He is referring to how, in 2003, the TAB and NZ Lotteries were excluded from an online gambling ban passed. The purpose of the exemption was to keep people from spending their money with offshore gaming companies, and instead to financially benefit New Zealand.
Lotteries Commission corporate communications manager Karen Jones said that customers would soon be able to purchase Saturday Lotto, Big Wednesday and Daily Keno tickets online, according to the New Zealand Herald, but she was unable to confirm a firm launch date.
COMING AS SOON AS APRIL
However, franchisees believe lotteries may begin selling Lotto tickets online as early as next month, quotes the Dominion Post. Many franchisees fear that online lottery sales will reduce the number of clients coming to their establishments to buy tickets.
Lotto outlets, which now number more than 1000, earned $51.5 million last year from a 7 per cent commission on ticket sales.
The owner of one franchise in central Wellington is certain that fewer people will come into his shop when ticket sales go online. He says 60 per cent of his sales are for Lotto, grossing about $20,000 each week.
"Am I expecting it to hurt? Yes. Look at my location, every Tom, Dick and Harry around me has got Internet access. Would you wait here in the queue or go on the Net and print one out?"
He also notes that he would be reluctant to check tickets which had been sold online, because "I'm not going to get anything out of it."
WOULD YOU RATHER HOLD A PHYSICAL TICKET?
But a northern suburbs dairy owner who recently became a Lotto franchisee to increase "foot traffic" doubted that convenience stores would be badly affected.
"Everything is going online", but many customers would feel more confident holding a winning ticket that had been printed in a Lotto shop, he says. He had been told to expect the launch of online Lotto ticket sales in April.
Another retailer said he had been told ticket sales would probably go online within a few weeks. There is speculation that NZ Lotteries may time the launch for a week when there are no massive jackpots on offer.
COMPARED TO BRITAIN
In Britain, where lotto tickets have been sold online since 2003, online sales accounted for 7 per cent of sales in the second half of last year, raking in GBP 163.3 million (NZ$412.9 million). More than three million players in the National Lottery have registered to buy tickets on the Net, through interactive TV and via their mobiles, says national operator Camelot.
RETAILERS STILL MOST IMPORTANT CHANNEL FOR LOTTO... FOR NOW
Ms Jones says retailers will continue to be Lotto's most important sales channel for the foreseeable future and retailers would not be expected to redeem prize-winning tickets that were bought online.
Unlike Britain's National Lottery, NZ Lotteries would not offer an equivalent of its Instant Kiwi "scratchies" online.
Ms Jones says NZ Lotteries has told prospective franchisees of its plans to sell tickets over the Web since August 2007 and has been "very open" with all its retailers.
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