SkyCity's plans to launch online gambling platform 'disturbing' - Dr Lance O'Sullivan

Dr Lance O'Sullivan is calling out plans by SkyCity to launch an online gambling website, based in Malta but which will target New Zealanders, as "disturbing" for the impacts it will have on vulnerable communities.

But SkyCity says $160 million a year is already being spent on online gambling, and backed up their plans by saying they had better protections around vulnerable gamblers than many other operators. 

Dr O'Sullivan, who is a former New Zealander of the year, told TVNZ1's Breakfast it shows the Government is "losing its grip" on the problem of gambling and its effect on society.

"We need to not allow this to happen, we need to go, 'If $160 million is already being lost then what are we doing as a country to stop that?'. We can't allow this to happen, and if it's already happening then we need to get tighter control over it.

"I think this is an opportunity for a Government's who's got child poverty as a platform issue, to be able to say, 'OK, this is one of the driver for its, we need to address it'."

Malta, an island in the Mediterranean, was chosen as the location for the new online gambling platform's base because New Zealand law doesn't allow the casino to provide online gambling services.

"Places like SkyCity, I call them poverty cartels," Dr O'Sullivan says. "These are gambling cartels that are creating misery across the country, the fact that they're going to go online causes great concern for me as it would for many people.

"I'm disturbed ... this is concerning behaviour, by such a powerful organisation, to create addicts, basically, to gambling, which is going to create incredible harm to communities that are already vulnerable."

He said every dollar put into gambling, whether it be into a machine or online, taxpayers pay about $2 back into poverty-related health, social and justice problems.

"We're [medical professionals] seeing people who can't afford to warm their homes, feed their families, get their medication - they end up in hospital. So what would've been avoided with a $5 intervention costs our country thousands of dollars and it's because money is going out of their homes through things like this."

SkyCity's intentions to delve into an online market is "a very strategic and smart, and I'd say cunning strategy to get people addicted", Dr O'Sullivan says.

SkyCity's Casino Operator declined to appear on Breakfast, but instead issued a statement which says they know "a great deal about host responsibility and harm minimisation".

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He says the Government is “losing its grip” on the problem of gambling and its effects on vulnerable communities. Source: Breakfast