Don Rowe for The Spinoff
The acclaimed Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the main attraction on a new line of Instant Kiwi scratchie cards, raising concerns among actors, artists and anti-gambling activists.
A line of Instant Kiwi scratchie cards featuring popular New Zealand movies has left those involved in the films upset their work is being used to promote gambling.
The scratchies, released to mark the 40th anniversary of the New Zealand Film Commission, include images from The World's Fastest Indian, Whale Rider and Hunt for the Wilderpeople - the latter of which were headlined by pre-teen Māori actors Julian Dennison and Keisha Castle-Hughes.
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Rima Te Wiata, who played Dennison's Aunt Bella in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, said using children to sell scratchies was contrary to harm reduction laws and gambling age restrictions.
"It seems baffling hypocrisy when the legal age of purchase is 18, and it is also illegal to purchase on behalf of somebody under the age of 18, that they're able to proliferate imagery featuring children well under the age of 18 in an effort to popularise the sale of Lotto scratchies."
Illustrator Hadley Donaldson, who drew the poster art for Hunt for the Wilderpeople, said he was disappointed his work was used but there was nothing he could do about it.
"I don't really have much to say beyond it's pretty gross, ill-considered and personally disappointing. They own all the artwork outright and can do anything at all with it - and are, evidently."
Paula Snowden, CEO of the Problem Gambling Foundation, said that while the scratchies appeared to meet the requirements of the law, the promotion came amid a serious increase in complaints from gambling addicts concerned about Lotto's family-focused marketing.
"These are iconic, fantastic New Zealand movies. But with children on the cover, that are Māori? Really? Julian Dennison is a hero now. Lotto know their target market alright," said Snowden.
"My concern about [Lotto's] behaviour continues to grow. The number of people who have identified Lotto as a gambling concern is up something like 25 percent. Their marketing is very effective, and it makes people spend money they don't have. 'Winning Lotto will solve all your problems' - no, it won't."
Kirsten Robinson, head of corporate communications at Lotto NZ, said the tickets were created in partnership with NZ Film Commission with approval from the relevant producers, and that they were designed in accordance with industry standards of best practice.
"Hunt for the Wilderpeople is rated PG (Parental Guidance Recommended) and primarily appeals to an adult audience. Instant Kiwi is an age-restricted product and Lotto NZ is committed to minimising any risk of underage gambling.
The promotion hinges on the relationship between the state-owned gambling body and the New Zealand film industry. In the 2016/17 financial year, Lotto NZ gave the New Zealand Film Commission almost $18 million - the vast majority of their total funding of $29.8 million. The tickets in question have a top prize of $50,000, and the New Zealand Film Commission logo on the reverse.
"As Lotto NZ is the primary funder of NZ Film, no licensing fee was applied to the tickets," said a Lotto NZ representative.
"As with tickets for all Lotto NZ's games, all profits from the '40 Years of Kiwi Film' Instant Kiwi will be returned to help make good things happen in New Zealand communities - including funding Kiwi films."
A spokesperson for the New Zealand Film Commission said they were proud of their connection to Lotto NZ, and that the tickets promoted the positive impact Lotto NZ has on the NZ Film industry, not gambling.
"We are proud of our connection to Lotto NZ and believe the poster artwork used on these tickets promotes the films and positive impact Lotto NZ has on the NZ Film industry, not gambling," said the spokesperson.
"The four films included on the tickets were chosen as they primarily appeal to an adult audience. "
The Advertising Standards Authority said that while gambling advertisements should not be directed at minors or have strong or evident appeal to minors, it would take a complaint for the board to rule on whether or not the tickets were an advertisement - and who, exactly, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is aimed at.