Online pokie game 'bastardising' NZ culture with Māori symbols

Endorphina maori online gambling
The game uses Māori symbols to entice players (Sceenshot/Endorphina)

An online gambling game featuring Māori symbols has outraged health advocates, who say it's "bastardising" the culture.

The slot machine-style game released by Czech developer Endorphina depicts Māori men and women, and uses iconic imagery such as pounamu, waka, bone carvings - and the haka Ka Mate.

Images are described by the game makers as being a "golden symbol with stuck out tongue", or a "canoe with Māori voyagers".

The game, which is available to children, has come under fire from anti-gambling advocates who are concerned about the impact gambling has on Māori communities.

Māori health advocacy organisation Hapai Te Hauora's general manager Anthony Hawke says Endorphina is "bastardising" New Zealand's culture.

"They are trying to say they can introduce Māori culture through a game made by a company on the other side of the world," he says.

"It has the potential for people to see Māori for the first time in the context of a [gambling-style] game."

The game designers say on their website that it offers an opportunity to "get on a journey with Māori".

"The Māori slot celebrates the cultural heritage of Māori people living in New Zealand," Endorphina says.

"They are known for their rich mythology, distinctive crafts and performing arts developed during the centuries in a complete isolation."

A Minister of Health study showed Māori are five to eight times more likely to suffer from a gambling addiction than other New Zealanders.

"The game is illegal, we have laws that protect the haka and we have laws that protect pounamu," Mr Hawke says.

"They're ripping off our IP. We need to make a statement to say this is not ok - let's take it as high as we can take it, let's get this shut down."

Newshub has contacted Endorphina for comment.