An anti-gambling advocate fears the sale of scratchies and lottery tickets in petrol stations could lead to more social problems in the ACT.
Thursday's announcement by NSW Lotteries that its full range of lottery products will be sold in five Woolworths petrol stations from September 7 has the Salvation Army's director on problem gambling concerned impulse purchasing will suck more people into the cycle of compulsive gambling.
"The bulk of lottery products are bought by people chasing the dream advertised on television," Gerard Byrne said.
"The people are often under financial pressure already and now these products will be available day and night, 365 days a year."
The agreement – brokered by Tatts Group, which operates NSW Lotteries – blindsided Gaming Minister Joy Burch, who expressed her surprise and concern at the decision.
She feared the deal could impact on existing harm minimisation strategies and compromise the safety of the stations' overnight workers, and she has asked the Gambling and Racing Commissioner to urgently investigate.
It's not only the availability that has Mr Byrne worried – he's also concerned about the impact of the depersonalisation of lottery sales.
He believed local newsagents were more familiar with the customers and therefore more likely to notice when someone's purchasing of lottery products is becoming a problem.
It's a concern echoed by newsXpress Kippax Fair owner Garry Prince. A Woolworths petrol station is only a couple hundred of metres up the road from his newsagency.
If it begins selling lotto products, it'll be the 10th place within five kilometres to do so.
"We've got our regular customers and if me or any of my staff believe someone has a problem, we have to make a note of it in the register," Mr Prince said.
"Service stations are always upselling; we're not allowed to do that. We don't think they'll be held to the same standards we are. They [service stations] will become 24-hour gambling services."
A Tatts Group spokesperson said it was yet to determine which five petrol stations would sell lottery products.
She said the decision to expand into the fuel sector followed a two-year trial in Victoria which tracked weekly sales at agents within two kilometres of participating petrol stations.
"[The trial] showed that sales were incremental in nature. The results of the Victorian trial have also been mirrored in South Australia, where convenience fuel outlets have been selling lottery products for the past four years and now make up about 12 per cent of the SA Lotteries retail network," she said.
"Nationally, our lottery products are currently already available at more than 100 convenience fuel outlets and 36 per cent of our lottery retailers are not classified as newsagents. Newsagents are, and will remain, a key distribution partner for Tatts Group."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.