The Lotteries Commission (Lotto) recently released an augmented reality (AR) app to coincide with Chinese New Year. The app links to an instant kiwi 'scratchie' which is purchased at retail outlets.
"This is a big red flag to us," says Anthony Hawke GM Māori Public Health for Hāpai Te Hauora. "We have previously called for caution in the use of digital technologies in gambling, and the use of AR to enhance the attractiveness of gambling is troubling."
Digital technology and technology consultants Solnet partnered with Lotto and Imersia Reality to create the app. On their website they cite the popularity of the Pokémon GO gaming app as a key factor in Lotto's decision to try to "engage people playing its games in a different way."
"That's a bit sinister, don't you think?" says Mr Hawke "A game targeted at kids was the inspiration for a new type of gambling."
Hāpai Te Hauora has strongly advocated against the use of cultural icons in gambling products, including successfully forcing an international online gaming company to withdraw a product in 2017 which used Māori imagery, language and culture.
"It's pretty perverse to use meaningful cultural icons as enticements to gambling," said Dr. Lorna Dyall, a researcher in public health and gambling. "We're calling this out now because we don't want to see an augmented reality app based on Matariki coming out next from Lotto. The research shows that problem gamblers are more likely to be attracted to gambling products whose brand represents their identity. If you like crystals and unicorns, there's a pokie machine for you. If you happen to whakapapa to a Māori whānau, well, we don't want to see Lotto perverting that.