Māori communities voice concern over popularity of online gambling

Lea Hogg 3 weeks ago
Māori communities voice concern over popularity of online gambling

Online gambling has emerged as a significant concern within Māori communities. This issue has been exacerbated by the involvement of Māori social media influencers who use their platforms to promote these services, offering special discounts through their codes and links.

Jessikha Leatham-Vlasic, the general manager of Hāpai te Hauora, has voiced her concerns about this growing trend. She highlights that Māori communities are already grappling with the harmful effects of traditional forms of gambling, such as pokies and casinos. The prevalence of these outlets in Māori communities has led to widespread harm. The advent of online gambling, which is accessible around the clock, poses an even greater risk.

The popular adage, “you’ve got to be in it to win it,” is often cited as the rationale behind persistent gambling in numerous households across the country. However, Leatham-Vlasic warns that online gambling is rapidly becoming a major source of modern betting.

She urges social media influencers to exercise caution and critical thinking when deciding what to promote to their followers. In these challenging times, influencers may be tempted by lucrative deals, but they must consider the potential harm to their followers, many of whom are already struggling.

Influencers Nix and Millie Elder Holmes, who are scheduled to appear at the upcoming M9 event, have been known to promote online gambling. Te Ao Māori News has reached out to the M9 organisers and the influencers for comments but has yet to receive a response.

On the other hand, Māori influencer Pairama Wright uses his platform to share his personal experiences with gambling and cautions his followers against it. He points out that the blame should be directed at the companies that exploit influencers to promote online gambling to specific demographics.

Wright recounts his own struggle with a severe gambling addiction from the ages of 19 to 23, during which he resorted to stealing and allegedly selling products to fund his gambling habit. He resonates with Siiam’s discourse on how online gambling targets specific groups, particularly Māori and Pasifika. He criticises the companies for not reaching out to influencers whose target audience on TikTok comprises middle and upper-class individuals.

The Gambling Act 2003 prohibits the promotion of gambling in Aotearoa, with the exception of NZ Lotto or TAB NZ. However, Leatham-Vlasic argues that this act needs to be revised to reflect the current landscape. She points out that while it is illegal to provide online gambling domestically in Aotearoa, except for Lotto NZ and TAB, it is legal for Māori to gamble on offshore websites. She calls for more robust harm minimisation mechanisms to protect Māori online.

Problem gambling statistics indicate that Māori and Pasifika people are more likely to be at risk of gambling compared to non-Māori. This underscores the urgent need to address the issue of online gambling within these communities.

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