Māori health advocates blast pokie for cultural appropriation

Maori pokieHealth advocates are blasting an online gambling game for using Māori culture to attract Indigenous people.

Māori health advocacy organisation, Hapai Te Hauora, are among anti-gambling advocates condemning the slot machine game released by Endorphina.

On their website, Hāpai Te Hauora states it “is deeply concerned to learn of a new online gambling site targeting Māori and using shameful cultural rip-offs.”

The game called Māori is found under the ‘Ethnic’ category on the Czech developer’s website and states it “celebrates the cultural heritage of Maori people living in New Zealand.”

Māori men and women have been used on the reels, along with symbolic imagery associated with Māori culture. Among these are 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”.

Māori health advocacy organisation Hapai Te Hauora’s CEO, Lance Norman, refutes Endorphina’s claims the game is commemorating their culture.

“It’s a sick joke at best and at worst an attempt to hook indigenous people in New Zealand and elsewhere into a game where the house always wins,” he said.

“We already know that Māori are disproportionately affected by problem gambling.”

A study released late last year by the Minister of Health showed Māori people are five to eight times more likely to suffer a gambling addiction compared to other New Zealanders.

The creators also state on their website the games provide a chance to “get on a journey with Māori”.

“The idea that people would use our culture to try and encourage gambling in an online environment where there are few restrictions or barriers to throwing your money away is reprehensible,” Mr Norman said.

“They are trying to say they can introduce Māori culture through a game made by a company on the other side of the world.”

General manager of Hapai Te Hauora, Anthony Hawke told NewsHub Endorphina is “bastardising” the culture.

“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.”

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Pokies providers have used cultures from all over the world. Hundreds of games with themes based on Oriental, Hawaiian, Mexican and other cultures are available online and at land-based casinos.

Net Entertainment has offices in Sweden, Malta, Ukraine, Gibraltar, USA and Poland, but not Mexico where one of their most popular pokies has been based. The title, Spintata Grande features sombreros, piñatas and other symbolic images from Mexican culture but has still been well-received.

Mr Norman of Māori health advocacy organisation has argued the Māori theme hooks indigenous New Zealanders in. While we don’t dispute there’s cultural appropriation, we do refute claims the game would be less addictive if it was themed with cherries and lemons.

Endorphina released the title at the end of last year and it is one of the few Māori themed pokie we could find on the web. Arguing cultural symbolism on a game will draw more Māori players in is ridiculous. Especially since problem gambling within Maori societies has been prevalent since 2012 – four years before the release of the game.

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