Newsagencies distressed by proposal to allow big players to sell lottery tickets

Gerringong Newsagency co-owners Dennis McWilliams and Janet Ware are not impressed by the possibility of supermarkets  being able to sell lottery tickets.  GEORGIA MATTS
Gerringong Newsagency co-owners Dennis McWilliams and Janet Ware are not impressed by the possibility of supermarkets being able to sell lottery tickets. GEORGIA MATTS

ONE newsagent in the Kiama municipality is distressed by mooted plans to allow supermarkets to sell lottery tickets. 

These comments follow reports the Tatts Group, which owns NSW Lotteries, planned to push for changes to state government legislation which will allow large retailers such as Coles and Woolworths to sell its products.

The changes could come into play from March 31, when a five-year moratorium on the sale of lotto tickets and scratchies ends.

The moratorium followed the privatisation of NSW Lotteries in 2010.

Some newsagents have suggested discussions about the changes could be premature as they might only apply to service stations grocery outlets like Coles Express.

Gerringong Newsagency co-owner Janet Ware has been running the business for nearly 12 months. 

“We’re distressed by the state government’s lack of support for our small business, especially when they are a government that says they are for business,” she said.

“They’ve had five years to make some decisions on this, and nothing has happened so far.

“The tireless enthusiasm of newsagents has built Lotto up; we’ve built their business up to where it is now.

“I find it very distressing.

“Lotto is gambling, and this will put it into supermarkets and normalise it.”

Ms Ware said they received only a small return on their investment regarding the actual sale of Lotto-related products, but said it was vital in attracting customers into their business.

“It brings a lot of people into our shop; that is the biggest benefit for us,” she said.

“We’re not dependent on that income, as we get so little from it for our expenditure.

“Lotto gives us a difference from a supermarket.”

Ms Ware also pondered whether supermarkets would put the same investment into Lotto that newsagents did.

“We’re also not sure they’ll have the same expertise as lotto agents have.

“We had to be trained on it for two weeks, at our cost, before we could take over the Lotto.” 

Newsagent bosses met with Treasurer Andrew Constance on Wednesday to keep lottery tickets out of major supermarkets.

The Newsagents Association of NSW and ACT (NANA) chief executive officer Andrew Packham and other industry figures met with Mr Constance to try to persuade him to extend the moratorium.

Mr Packham said they had received a “good hearing”, and the Minister was committed to working with NANA to find a solution.

Mr Packham said he was also encouraged by the public support of Small Business Minister Bruce Billson.

However, Mr Packham still had “very serious” concerns, believing it would put many lottery agents out of business, especially rural ones. 

“At the moment we have some words… But until such time as we see it in black and white on paper, there’s no deal,” he said.

He said the presence of lottery-related products served other key functions.

“It is our number one foot traffic driver, and has been since 1979,” he said.

“Our businesses have been built around this service; it brings people in and they buy other things.

“We are absolutely not letting up until we get a result.” 

Newsagencies are also circulating a petition opposing the proposal.