Lotto at supermarket checkouts

As part of TV3s show, The Nation, on the weekend, significant questions were asked about whether Lotto tickets should be able to be bought at supermarket checkouts. At present, Countdown is the only supermarket to allow this. However, the other supermarket chains (Pak’n’Save and New World) have Lotto desks in their stores, except that you have to join a second queue after you’ve already bought your groceries.

I’m not sure where I stand on this issue. Part of me adopts a libertarian “leave people to make their own decisions about whether they buy a Lotto ticket” stance. If they want the convenience of buying their ticket at the checkout, rather than having to walk to a new queue, then so be it.

However, I’m also somewhat perturbed by the effects that large jackpots have on buyer behaviour. Michael Morton, the CEO of the Mad Butcher chain, said on The Nation that food purchases at his stores falls by up to 15% on Jackpot days. Apparently, other retailers have confirmed similar trends to The Nation’s producers and budgeting agencies tell of increased demand for food parcels in the days following a Jackpot weekend.

Those statistics, if true (and at this stage they are only apocryphal, as they haven’t been substantiated), are alarming. That’s a clear correlation showing that people are prioritising buying Lotto tickets over food. And that’s without providing easier access to Lotto tickets by placing them at supermarket checkouts.

The other issue I have is a general one; one that won’t be solved by banning Lotto sales from checkouts – why do we allow people to pay for Lotto tickets using a credit card? There is something inherently wrong about allowing people to gamble using borrowed funds, which is exactly what credit card debt is. Sure, at the end of the day you can’t stop people taking out a cash loan from a shark to buy Lotto tickets (or to play the pokies or the TAB or poker). However, letting people buy Lotto tickets on a credit card is essentially sanctioning the practice of gambling on debt. And that doesn’t sit well with me.

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