Jones: Food and gambling don't mix

Last updated 08:59 07/04/2014

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Labour MP Shane Jones is calling for an end to big Lotto jackpots after attacking supermarket chain Countdown over tickets being sold at the checkout counter.

Jones said selling shoppers Lotto tickets at the checkout was like putting a pokie machine at every counter but worse, because people could pay for the tickets with their credit cards.

"What do you buy? Weet-Bix, orange or a big fat Wednesday?"

He believed there should be an immediate review of the Gambling Act, and that should include a look at the size of the Lotto jackpot as a $30 million or $40m jackpot was too high.

Jones said yesterday Internal Affairs and Ministry of Health figures showed Lotto expenditure had exploded compared with more traditional types of gambling and problem gambling related to Lotto was also on the rise.

Labour Party leader David Cunliffe said he shared Jones' concerns. "I think there is a real risk that a Lotto machine being at the checkout that it will tempt people to indulge whereas they might not have otherwise at a time when they can least afford it."

Gambling was traditionally a conscience matter for Labour MPs, though he expected there would be a discussion within caucus at some point.

But Countdown was standing by the practice and said it was popular with customers.

"We used to sell Lotto tickets in-lane back in 1999 but the technology just wasn't up to it at the time. Customer feedback has been very positive with most people being really pleased not to have to queue twice, particularly at busy shopping times," a Countdown spokesperson said.

Only a limited range of tickets was sold at the counter, however, "and we don't proactively ask customers if they would like to buy a ticket at the checkouts".

Countdown confirmed credit card payments were accepted but said that was not unusual among Lotto retailers. It would not comment on sales because that was "commercially sensitive".

Jones has launched a series of attacks on Countdown and its Australian owners, Progressive Enterprises. The Commerce Commission is investigating claims of anti-competitive behaviour and that retrospective cash payments have been demanded of suppliers.

Progressive Enterprises managing director Dave Chambers confirmed yesterday terms with some suppliers might include retrospective payments if the agreed amount of sales was not achieved. But these conditions were agreed upfront, Chambers said. Jones also accused Countdown yesterday of threatening MPs with legal action over evidence to a parliamentary committee. But Countdown said there had been no legal threats.

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"We have asked the select committee for a record of what was said at their recent meeting because it affects our business.

"Anyone is able to do that." Fairfax NZ

- The Dominion Post

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