The antipodean neighbours of New Zealand and Australia, just like their European and North American cousins, are fond of gambling. It’s a national pastime, with citizens eagerly betting on sports, playing roulette and indulging in all their favourite casino games, both online and in real world premises.
In 2008, New Zealanders spent over $NZ 2 billion on gambling, a sum which works out at $480 per capita. That’s some serious action, and that figure can be presumed to have grown substantially in the intervening years.
The History of Gambling in NZ
Most developed nations seem to have gone through a prohibition era in regards to gambling, typically in the first half of the 20th century, before coming to their senses and legalising and taxing it. New Zealand’s prohibition arrived in 1920, with punters’ only means of indulging their passion derived from wagering on-course at the horse racing. That all changed in the early 60s, and the country has been gradually repealing anti-gambling legislation ever since and embracing the possibilities afforded by emerging technologies.
New Zealanders are particularly fond of their slots, better known as “pokies”. With the rise of online casinos, the country’s citizenry have directed their gaze from the hotels and bars to the web, where they’ve been able to spin slots to their hearts’ content. Slot machine terminals still proliferate in New Zealand, but they’ve since been augmented by a plethora of web-based casinos located overseas.
With the rise of online gambling, roulette has grown in popularity, with many Kiwis now playing the luck-based casino game on a regular basis.
The Law on Gambling in New Zealand
In New Zealand, it’s the Department of Internal Affairs who are responsible for regulating gambling. State-owned institutions are heavily invested in the country’s gambling infrastructure, and it falls to the Department of Internal Affairs to monitor their activity including making sure that a portion of profits is returned to the local community, as stipulated by law.
Among the various laws pertaining to gambling in NZ is the requirement for slots (or pokies) to feature a Player Information Display. This reveals how long the gambler has been playing and how much they’ve lost. This process encourages responsible gambling and incentivises players to take a break.
The Role of the Dia
The Department of Internal Affairs has its work cut out keeping pace with the boom in online gambling that’s been a characteristic of most nations in the last five years or so. Its role is to regulate, audit and investigate gambling at New Zealand casinos, both in the real world and the virtual one.
Every form of gambling that’s available in the country – housie; lotteries; instant win games – is monitored by the governmental department.
It issues or refuses casino licenses, sets operating standards, approves the installation of gaming machines in pubs and clubs and ensures that they conform to the standards laid out in the Gambling Act 2003. While much of the DIA’s work involves liaising with gambling operators, its duties also include aiding citizens who feel they may be at risk of developing a gambling problem.
Land-Based Gambling in New Zealand
At present, there are just six casinos in New Zealand, but then the country doesn’t have the largest landmass. There are four Skycity casinos – Wharf Casino, Queenstown, Hamilton and Auckland – plus Christchurch Casino and Dunedin Casino, all of which offer roulette and other table games.
The Department of Internal Affairs publishes detailed and interesting stats which reveal the scale of the annual spend in the country on gambling activities. During the period between 2014-15 for instance, $NZ 527 million was spent in casinos. Another $NZ 818 million was spent on gaming machines situated outside of casinos, such as in betting shops, $NZ 420 million was spent on lotteries in the country and $NZ 325 million on horse racing.
Online Roulette in New Zealand
The Gambling Act 2003 clearly states that it is not illegal for a citizen in New Zealand to gamble on an overseas website. This means that New Zealanders have the freedom to play roulette and other games wherever they like on the web with impunity. Residents are not liable to pay tax on winnings generated through online gambling, any more than they are for money won playing pokies at land-based premises.
For overseas casinos and roulette sites looking to attract New Zealand players, there are certain laws to be aware of. For one thing, the fine print of the Gambling Act 2003 explains that they are prohibited from advertising directly at New Zealanders.
More than almost any other country, New Zealand’s government has commissioned detailed reports into gamblers’ behaviour, examining the psychology behind gambling, the possible dangers and the habits and preferences of the country’s regular gamblers. This information is used to inform, to educate and to steer government policy concerning the regulation of gambling.
Sports betting is permitted in New Zealand, and falls under the control of the Totalisator Agency Board, which is part of the New Zealand Racing Board. New Zealand residents are at liberty to bet online at their favourite sites, including those run by major companies such as Ladbrokes, William Hill and Bet365.
According to the country’s gambling laws, it’s forbidden for an individual or company located within New Zealand to advertise offshore gaming websites. However, this does not prevent the sites themselves from engaging in general web marketing which will, by its nature, attract the attention of some New Zealand players.
While the Totalisator Agency Board is responsible for the country’s sole legal online sports betting service, residents play at a wide range of overseas sites. New Zealanders are particularly fond of horse racing, and wager on both domestic and overseas races. The country’s horse breeding background is well documented, and it’s produced more than its share of derby winners over the years.
The Future of Gambling in New Zealand
Despite its permissive attitude to gambling, the New Zealand government is missing out on potential revenue by allowing overseas companies to mop up much of the profits to be made from online betting and gaming. Because, ultimately, money is the final arbiter of government policy, it seems likely that the country will switch to a homegrown online betting model in future, with New Zealanders encouraged to wager at casinos and sportsbooks originating in their homeland.
The DIA can be commended for their holistic approach to gambling however, including the publication of detailed annual statistics that provide a fascinating snapshot of the health of the gambling industry. Its commitment to tackling problem gambling is encouraging, and is one of the reasons why gambling is seen as a harmless pastime in the country instead of a crippling or shameful habit.
From playing pokies to spinning the roulette wheel, New Zealanders love to have a flutter. No amount of legislation could ever alter that.
Is it legal to gamble in New Zealand?
Yes and many New Zealanders regularly do, both online and in betting shops and walk-in casinos.
Are gambling winnings subject to tax in New Zealand?
How old do you have to be to gamble in New Zealand?
You must be 18 to place a bet with TAB or at the horse racing track and 20 to enter a casino.
What is TAB?
It’s the Totalisator Agency Board and is responsible for regulating sports betting in New Zealand as well as supplying the country’s solitary online betting service.
What’s the policy with gambling at overseas casinos?
New Zealanders are free to play roulette and other games at any site they like on the web.