National | Gambling

Some Māori social media influencers promote online gambling

Warning: This story contains visuals of online gambling sites and stories of gambling recovery.

Māori social media influencers are promoting online gambling services, using their platform to share their codes and links for special discounts for the services.

Hāpai te Hauora general manager Jessikha Leatham-Vlasic says the rise in online gambling is becoming a big worry for Māori communities.

“Our whānau are already experiencing harm in terms of traditional gambling, pokies, casino, with a high concentration of those outlets in our whānau and in our communities. Online gambling carries the same determinants of gambling harm as pokies, and the risk is actually higher because they’re available 24/7,” she says.

The common saying. “you’ve got to be in it to win it” is widely regarded as the reason for continuous gambling in many households around the country.

However, online gambling is swiftly rising to become a big source of modern betting, she says.

“I think our social media influencers have to be really critical for what they choose to put out to our whānau. We know that it’s hard times for people and maybe even our influencers looking for a good deal in terms of what they can get out of it. But our whānau out there are already struggling,” Leatham-Vlasic says.

Nix and Millie Elder Holmes are two of many influencers who have promoted online gambling. Both are appearing at next month’s M9 event. Te Ao Māori News have asked M9 organisers and the influencers for a comment but they are yet to reply.

Pairama Wright warns followers

But another Māori influencer, Pairama Wright, has taken to his platform to share his own experiences with gambling, and says the finger should be pointed towards to the companies reaching out to the influencers using their platform to promote online gambling to a specific demographic.

“The perspective that I’m coming from is that, it is quite interesting because. I had a really bad gambling addiction when I was 19 to 23. I was a shocking gambler. I used to steal my mum’s rent money to gamble, I used to steal from other places to gamble, even allegedly sell products to make money to gamble. Like gambling was my life,” he says in a Tiktok post.

“I liked Siiam’s kōrero talking about how it’s targeting particular groups, specifically Māori and Pasifika. It’s really sad. Like from a PR perspective, from a company perspective, you don’t see them. Guarantee you don’t see them hitting up people whose demographic or target audience on TikTok is middle, and upper class people.

“Don’t gamble, that’s my words to you. Don’t do that as an option.”

According to the Gambling Act 2003, no company or person can promote gambling in Aotearoa, unless it is NZ Lotto or TAB NZ.

However Leatham-Vlasic says this act needs to be reviewed to fit the current climate.

“It’s not fit for purpose, it doesn’t include anything about Te Tiriti o Waitangi and, while it is illegal for online gambling to be provided domestically, here in Aotearoa, except for Lotto NZ and TAB, it is legal for our whānau to gamble on offshore websites, and there are next to no harm minimisation mechanisms to protect our whānau online.”

According to problem gambling statistics, Māori and Pasifika people are more likely to be at risk of gambling compared with non-Māori.