New Zealand Gambling

Gambling in New Zealand

New Zealand’s first legalized gambling can be traced back to the early 1900’s with race tracks as a result of the Gambling Act in 1908. Through the years off-site Pokies began to spring up which would eventually lead to a need to have brick and mortar casinos to house the pokie loving frenzy with the first major casino was established in 1994. However, over the last 20 years, all forms of physical and online gambling in New Zealand have grown rapidly. Initially, the gambling industry was largely unregulated, but that changed with the passing of the Gambling Act 2003. There are currently six land based casinos throughout all of New Zealand.

Like many of its neighbors Australia, gambling is a big part of the societal make up. 2017 is sure to see a greater increase in activity as NZ continues to grow as a tourist destination. The revenue from legalized gambling can positively impact a country and the people residing there. Recently news broke about NZ moving forward with plans to press a point-of-consumption tax on international gambling operators that reap revenue off of New Zealanders.

The Gambling Act 2003 replaced the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1977 and the Casino Control Act 1990. Under its provisions, all gambling in New Zealand is licensed and regulated by the Department of Internal Affairs. The Gambling Act 2003 is intended to promote fair gambling practices, limit gambling associated crime, ensure that revenue from gambling benefits the community, and facilitate responsible gambling and minimal harm from problem gambling.

Live casino and online gambling in New Zealand is currently illegal unless it is authorized under the Gambling Act of 2003. The Act stipulated that all gambling operations in New Zealand with total prizes exceeding $5,000 must be licensed. The Act also specifically prohibited “remote interactive gambling,” including online gambling, with the exception of approved activities conducted by the Lotteries Commission and Racing Board. Advertising for overseas gambling is prohibited as well.

All gambling that is licensed and authorized in New Zealand, with the exception of casino gambling, is strictly for the purpose of community fundraising and not for the profit of the business. It should be noted, however, that as regards non-allowance of online gambling (i.e., on the computer or mobile devices), the law only applies to remote interactive online gambling within New Zealand and not to gambling conducted overseas. Thus, it is not illegal for a New Zealander to gamble online on an overseas foreign website.

New Zealanders are left on their own to gamble as they wish on foreign websites, but with the understanding that if there is a problem, the New Zealand Government will not be able to protect or assist them. Meanwhile, penalties can be imposed for anyone who conducts or participates in unauthorized gambling within the country. Fines of up to $50,000 for organizations and $10,000 for individuals can be imposed.

The part of the law pertaining to the prohibition of advertising to promote overseas online gambling was put to the test in legal action that the Department of Internal Affairs initiated against and the Asia Pacific Poker Tour. The Department was challenging the legality of TV ads that the two companies ran between April and May, 2007. On 6/23/10, in a landmark ruling, the District Court dismissed the cases against both companies. The Court decreed that the since the ads were for, which offers game for practice with play money, and not for the real money website,, they were not breaking the law. The judge further ruled that the Asia Pacific Poker Tour, the way it was structured, splitting up the entry fees for the competition among the winning players, did not constitute gambling either.

Gambling in New Zealand Today

About Gambling in New Zealand

Live casino and online gambling is a huge part of the New Zealand culture today. New Zealand residents spend more than 2 billion dollars per year on gambling, and about 40% are believed to gamble every week. Moreover, these figures apply just to the gambling that is legal in the country, racing sports betting, lotteries, non-casino gaming machines, and casino gambling. It does not include all the additional money that New Zealanders bet on foreign websites.

In 2015 gamblers in New Zealand spent an additional $20 million more that year than the prior year. There has been a continued growth over the past six years and the majority of the increase has been at land based casinos. This is great news for any new investors. Between 2014 and 2013, gamblers in New Zealand spent over $2.09 billion on legal gambling in their country, a substantial increase from the previous year.

The minimum legal age to play the lottery or bet on sports or horseracing in New Zealand is 18. The minimum age to play in a land-based casino is 20.

The Totalisator Agency Board (TAB) and New Zealand Lotteries Commission remain the only organizations in New Zealand that are allowed to offer online gambling to residents. However, residents are free to bet on any game they wish using foreign sites.

Problem Gambling in New Zealand

The Ministry of Health National Problem Gambling Team is responsible for addressing problem gambling in New Zealand. In 2010, the Ministry set up a 6 year strategic plan for “Preventing and Minimizing Gambling Harm,” including funding for research, public health, and prevention and intervention services. The Government is reimbursed for these expenses through a levy collected on the profits of the country's four major gambling operations: gaming machines in pubs and clubs, casinos, the New Zealand Racing Board, and the New Zealand Lotteries Commission.

Since then, the government has stopped its funding for the Problem Gambling Foundation. This organization was receiving government funding for many years and had counseled thousands of people. The Problem Gambling Foundation had also been the largest provider of services to problem gamblers in Australia, both live casino and online gambling users.

The decision to stop funding was made because the foundation opposed a deal to increase the number of gambling machines at SkyCity Casino. The new contract for providing services to problem gamblers in New Zealand is being awarded to the Salvation Army, even though that organization opposed the SkyCity deal (but not after receiving government funding like the Problem Gambling Foundation).

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