Why the New Zealand Gambling Laws are Outdated

By | April 18, 2023


Nowadays, online gambling is more popular than ever before. However, New Zealand gambling laws are still severely outdated. The Gambling Act of 2003 is still in place and has remained unchanged for a good 20 years. This law states that one must be 18 years old to buy lottery tickets and participate in sports betting and 20 years old to enter a land-based casino in New Zealand.

The bill also prevents residents of New Zealand from gambling online, except for the online state lottery and Totalizer Agency BoFard or TAB. The major flaw, however, is that Kiwi players are free to sign up, deposit, and place real money bets at online casinos, sportsbooks, and online poker rooms hosted abroad.

History of Gambling in New Zealand

Betting, which consists of playing games of chance along with placing bets on racing and sports, has a long and incredibly diverse tradition in the country of New Zealand. With the very first gambling rules dating all the way back to the first half of the 20th century, Kiwis have been dealing with a highly regulated industry long before other countries.

In the 1830s, gambling was virtually banned in New Zealand territory. However, at the turn of the century, New Zealanders witnessed a different regulation. While the Gambling Act of 1908 was still restrictive, it did allow betting on the most popular sporting events, such as horse racing.

Over the course of the 20th century, the country saw two extremes regarding the regulation of gambling practices. Before the end of the first half of the century, the rules for sports betting and horse racing had tightened to the point that only a few specific betting options, such as betting on track horse races, were allowed. However, in 1961, the government’s rules were revised, and this saw the legalization of slots, lotteries, and land-based casino establishments approved by the late 1990s.

Legal Online Gambling in New Zealand

Nowadays, as previously mentioned, Kiwi players have only two options to gamble online legally – through the New Zealand Lottery Commission and TAB. All other local gambling sites are illegal to use, and even if an online casino is hosted in New Zealand, it cannot offer casino games like slots, table games, or poker. Luckily, many offshore casinos cater to Kiwi players, and nothing holds players back from playing at these sites. So a casino may be called online casino New Zealand but they are regulated by Malta and hosted on a Maltese webserver.

A similar state-controlled gambling scene exists in other countries, and the reason for this is actually relatively easy. Having just two companies having a monopoly on gambling offerings makes things easy for the New Zealand government, and by heavily taxing these two companies, they give back to the community, partially restoring the potential harm they cause by offering games of chance.

Games of Chance Classifications in New Zealand

With current legislation in place, there are four different classes of gambling in New Zealand: casino gambling pokies and other table games, lotteries and sweepstakes, Class II and III gaming (games of chance run by charity organisations), and Class IV Gambling (private gambling like house poker games).

New Zealand Gambling Laws Affecting Casinos Rather Than Players

One thing to keep in mind regarding New Zealand gambling law is that it focuses mainly on casinos rather than players. Although formally speaking, players can be fined up to NZD$20,000 or imprisoned for up to two years, it is primarily the online casinos and sportsbooks that get fined when advertising gambling or operating without a license. Gambling winnings aren’t considered taxable income either, so there is little players could do ‘’wrong’’ as opposed to the casinos offering the games. This is turned around in a country like South Africa, if you gamble online there you can get a fine. In China you can even go to prison for it!

SkyCity Casino Operating From Malta

SkyCity is one of the most prominent gambling and entertainment companies in New Zealand. It manages five land-based casinos across the country, serving thousands of players and punters daily, generating nearly a billion dollars in turnover. However, as prominent as SkyCity is, it also has to adhere to the strict and outdated gambling laws in New Zealand.

As a result, SkyCity decided to launch its website through a Maltese subsidiary, with a gambling platform and front-end development provided by a Malta-based company – the Gaming Innovation Group. With that step they became one of the most popular online casino New Zealand.

Essentially, SkyCity is doing what most offshore casinos are doing by offering online gambling, including traditional casino games like pokies, Blackjack, and Roulette from abroad, with an evident focus on the New Zealand market and its players. This circumvents the current Gambling Act in place, with some calling it a ‘’legal loophole.’’

Future Gambling Laws in New Zealand

Obviously, the government of New Zealand and local politicians have gotten wind of this situation. As a result, the Department of Internal Affairs is now seeking submissions and is open for discussion regarding a new regulatory framework for online gambling. With a new regulatory framework in place, both domestic and overseas casinos and sportsbooks will be able to operate legally in New Zealand and offer gambling services to its residents.

Most likely, SkyCity will become the first licensed online casino in the newly regulated New Zealand online casino industry and be treated just like its land-based components.

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