New Zealand Casinos

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Online Casinos in New Zealand

Before we take go into online casinos in New Zealand, let’s cover a few things!

Online gambling is a global business, but the attitudes and approaches taken by operators, affiliates, and players can differ wildly from country to country.

As with any business, in order to be successful, it is necessary to know and reflect these values.

In this article, we’re going to focus on New Zealand. Taking a look at the unique rules and restrictions that operators and affiliates must adhere to.

Here’s everything you need to know about online casinos in New Zealand.

Gambling History in New Zealand

New Zealand has a long history of gambling, with bets on horse racing documented as early as the 1830’s.

However, the country has undergone long periods of prohibition over the years, with strict rules regularly making nearly all forms of gambling illegal.

Brought over, or at least popularised by early European settlers, gambling was popular during the colonial period. That changed with The Gambling Act of 1908, which prohibited most forms of gambling away from racecourses.

Still, New Zealanders are famous for finding a new way to accomplish a task, due to the so-called ‘wire 8’ mentality, and gambling persisted.

In 1951, perhaps recognising that prohibiting gambling had done little to dampen citizens’ appetite for it, The Totalisator Agency Board (TAB) started to relax the rules somewhat.

The Golden Kiwi Lottery

The Golden Kiwi Lottery started life as the ‘art unions’ way back in 1929, when Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s tour of the island in the “Southern Cross”attracted the interest of media and citizens alike.

Aviation fans asked the Government for £4,000 alluvial gold art unions, the profits to be devoted to the purchase of land for aerodromes. The Auckland Aero Club organised the first major art union and made a profit of £13,000.

Seeing this success, other aero clubs, and charitable organisations, submitted more applications than the Government could reasonably deal with, forcing them to take an interest in the profits of the art unions.

The Light Bulb Moment for Gambling in New Zealand

In 1932, The Government then entered into an agreement with a private firm (Messrs Hammond and McArthur Ltd.), which was granted licences to conduct art unions for the purpose of raising funds for specific objects. The profits were to be distributed by the Minister of Internal Affairs.

Between 1932 and 1961, tickets were sold to this end, with the prize money steadily increasing until it reached £10,000. Tickets were unlimited and draws were held monthly, and then three-weekly. The average annual profit for the period 1956–60 was approximately £220,000.

The Golden Kiwi lottery replaced the arts unions in 1961 and, a year later, The Gaming Amendment Act of 1962 saw the creation of The Board of Control to determine policy with regards to profits.

The Board of Control consist of the Minister of Internal Affairs as chairman, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Official Opposition, and three persons appointed by the Governor-General.

The decades that followed have seen the emergence of land-based casinos, lotteries, and ‘pokies’ –land-based slot machines in bars and restaurants, which are very popular in New Zealand and Australia.

Today, many Kiwis enjoy gambling as part of their daily lives, although the rules remain strict.

Gambling Laws in New Zealand

The Gambling Act of 2003 explicitly prohibits “remote interactive gambling”. This means New Zealand based companies can neither offer, nor advertise online gambling activities.

New Zealand citizens are also prohibited from participating in unauthorised gambling activities.

In fact, authorised gambling activities within the country are limited to government lotteries and non-profit casinos operated by charitable foundations.

There are only six land-based casinos in the country, and each is located in a different city:

Auckland Casino (Sky City)
Christchurch casino
Dunedin casino
Hamilton casino (Sky City)
Queenstown casino (Sky City)
Wharf casino (Sky City)

Economic Contribution from Online Casinos in New Zealand

The attitude toward gambling in New Zealand remains one of balancing the potential harm with the benefits to the community that can be achieved with the money raised.

This money still makes up a significant portion of the country’s economy.

The New Zealand Herald reported that New Zealanders spent $2.4 billion on gambling in 2018 – around $648 for every person in the country.

The majority of that spend went on ‘pokies’ or slot machines as we may know them better, at an estimated expenditure of $238 per person.

Clearly, the appetite for gambling is strong amongst New Zealanders but, with such tight restrictions, their options are limited.

Whilst the percentage of the popular who fall into the criteria for ‘problem gambling’ remains low (0.1% in 2016, according to the Health Promotion Agency Health and Lifestyles Survey), the New Zealand Government and gambling boards remain vigilant.

However, there is one major loophole – online casinos based outside of New Zealand.

New Zealanders are permitted to gamble on online casinos, as long as the sites are not based in New Zealand.

None of the official figures takes into account New Zealanders spending their money on online casinos based outside of the island, so the actual gambling spent is likely to be far larger.

The Governments Watchful Eye

This has not gone unnoticed by New Zealand’s Government, particularly when it comes to sports betting.

In a 217 statement, Racing Minister, Nathan Guy, said: “…A growing number of New Zealanders are now gambling through offshore betting agencies who make no contribution back to our communities.

“These offshore operators use New Zealand race information for their bets without paying a royalty back to our industry for their use. Also, by not contributing any profits back to our communities, these operators are able at work at an unfair advantage to the TAB.

“A Working Group found that in 2015, about 40,000 New Zealanders turned over $518 million offshore with $58 million in losses – this represents potential lost revenue of up to $45 million for local racing and sports organisations. The Working Group also found that these figures are likely to grow.”

This led to an amendment to the 2003 Racing Act with a point of consumption tax to be levied on offshore bookmakers for the first time.

It is not unreasonable to think that, at some point, the New Zealand Government might take a similar approach to the overseas online casinos that New Zealanders are making heavy financial contributions to.

Pros and Cons of Gambling in New Zealand

For the time being, however, New Zealanders can place bets or play slots on any site based outside of New Zealand which accepts them as players, with British and European sites being the most popular.

Winnings are not taxable in New Zealand, with the exception of professional online poker players who will be taxed on their winnings, if playing poker is their main source of income.

This means that a big win can provide a huge financial boost. Such was the case with New Zealand’s biggest ever slot winner, Rawiri Pou, a KFC worker who won more than $10m NZ playing on the Mega Moolah progressive slots jackpot.

The only major drawback from a Kiwi gambler’s perspective, playing online casinos in New Zealand, is that they have no legal protection nor recourse within New Zealand, should a dispute occur with a foreign site.

Popular Online Casinos in New Zealand

The most popular online casinos in New Zealand, then, aren’t actually in New Zealand.

Instead, Kiwis have a wealth of UK and European online casinos at their disposal where, at least for the time being, they are only restricted by each site’s terms and conditions.

With other countries such as America and Australia also still relying heavily on UK and European online casinos for their gambling entertainment, not to mention increasingly strict rules regarding responsible gambling, it is good practice to include as much player information as possible on your online casino sites.