You can now buy a scratchie with your six pack as retail outlets embrace lottery products

Lottery tickets and scratchies are now available in hundreds of retail outlets in New South Wales since restrictions on their sale lifted 10 years ago. 

BWS is the latest chain to enter the gambling market, with three stores securing a licence to sell lottery products in Sydney.

A moratorium on the sale of lottery tickets beyond newsagencies was lifted in 2015, allowing other stores, excluding supermarkets, to sell them.

While the overall number of outlets remains relatively unchanged at about 1,300, the broader availability of lottery tickets and scratchies has raised concerns about the “normalising” of gambling.

There are about 900 newsagents operating in the state, and not all of them have a lottery licence.

It means that at least 400 are other outlets, including pharmacies, petrol stations and bottle shops.

Customers can now buy lottery tickets and scratchies at a wide range of shops across NSW. (ABC: Timothy Marshall)

Lotteries were once government-run to raise money for public infrastructure, and not-for-profits and charities continue to use them to generate revenue.

Many consider buying a lotto ticket every now and then a harmless activity and scratchies are often shared as gifts.

However, Gambling Reform Alliance chief executive Carol Bennett said the risks of lotteries should not be underestimated.

“Lotteries are insidious,” Ms Bennett said. 

A 2023 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study found that 30 per cent of Australian adults gamble on lotteries at least once a month and two thirds had gambled on lotteries in the past year.

In its submission to a parliamentary inquiry into legislation to ban the use of credit to fund gambling, the Gambling Reform Alliance argued lotteries should not be treated more leniently than other betting activities.

The alliance pointed to a study published in the Addictive Behaviours journal that found almost one-third of lotteries-only gamblers were at some level of gambling-related risk and younger people, males, smokers, and more frequent e-cigarette users were more likely to report gambling harm from lottery products.

“This evidence suggests that lotteries are not as substantially different to other gambling products and are not harmless as was once thought,” it said.

‘Package deal’ raises concerns

BWS, owned by pubs and pokies operator Endeavour Group, confirmed it had begun a trial with The Lottery Corporation.

“The first store in the trial, at Petersham, commenced selling lottery tickets in March,” an Endeavour Group spokesperson said.

BWS stores at Banora Point and Prospect are also part of the trial.

They are not the first liquor outlets to enter the gambling market, with 40 liquor outlets selling lottery tickets and scratchies in NSW and Victoria.

Ms Bennett said it was particularly concerning to promote gambling alongside alcohol.

“It’s a pervasive culture and it kind of normalises this whole culture… you can pick up a quick pick at your local BWS, while you’re getting your six pack of beer,” she said.

“The more you are stocking them together as a package deal, it just creates that cumulative effect and sends a very strong message that this is all very normal.”

A Liquor & Gaming NSW spokesperson said the government had no role in determining the number or location of outlets.

“NSW Lotteries has processes in place for appointing outlets to its retail network,” the spokesperson said

“Liquor & Gaming NSW is aware that some BWS stores applied to NSW Lotteries to become lottery outlets as part of a pilot program with the Endeavour Group.

“As with the sale of alcohol, these gambling products are only available to persons aged 18+ and require age identification to purchase.”

A spokesperson for The Lottery Corporation, formed in June 2022, was unable to provide a figure for how many newsagents sold lottery tickets prior to the lifting of the moratorium in 2015.

“Our retail network is comprised predominantly of newsagencies, with a mix of other retail outlets including convenience stores and service stations,” the spokesperson said.

“All applications for new lottery outlets are assessed on their individual merits.”

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