December 8, 2020

The State of Online Gambling in New Zealand

New Zealand houses millions of gamblers, with recent statistics indicating that at about 80% of the entire country’s population take part in one form of gambling or another, including playing online slots for real money. By the end of 2018, Kiwis had spent as much as NZ$2.4 billion on gambling, putting the average expenditure per player for the year at about NZ$648 on legal betting facilities across the country.

As huge as that figure is, however, that doesn’t account for offshore online gambling in the country – a subject that often raises a lot of questions. Today we took the liberty of exploring the subject in depth to try and make things clear. To offer you the best perspective, we’ll start from the cradle of gambling in the country going as far back as the 20th century.

History of Gambling in New Zealand

The act of betting, which comprises playing the games of chance, along with placing bets on racing and sports, boasts of a long and incredibly diverse tradition within the country of New Zealand. With the very first gambling regulations going all the way back to the first half of the 20th century, Kiwis were already dealing with a highly regulated industry well before other countries.

In the 1830s, gambling on New Zealand territory was all but prohibited. However, at the turn of the century, New Zealanders witnessed another regulative. Although the Gambling Act of 1908 was still limiting, it did allow the placing of bets on the most popular sports events, such as horse racing.

Through the course of the 20th century, the country saw two extremes with regard to how the regulation of betting practices was made. Before the end of the first half of the century, sports gambling and horse racing regulations had been tightened to a point where only a few specific wagering options such as on-course horse race betting were allowed. However, by 1961, the government rules were revamped, and this saw the legalization of pokies, lotteries, and towards the end of the 90s, brick-and-mortar casino establishments were okayed.

The Gambling Act of 2003

As the industry advanced and new forms of real money gaming, such as online gambling, came to be in the 2000s, lawmakers in the country had come up with new regulations. The New Zealand Gambling Act of 2003 was ratified, and it outlined the legal betting practices together with those that are against the law.

At that time, the Totalisator Agency Board (TAB) was instituted as the supervisory body for all matters pertaining to sports betting and racing under the NZ Racing board. The Gambling Commission, established by the Gambling Act of 2003, has been functioning under the Department of Internal Affairs, and for its part, deals with issues relating to licensing, security, standards, and fairness.

Additionally, there’s also the Gambling Compliance Group that has been charged with monitoring the appropriate execution of every provision indicated by the Gambling Act of 2003, and their implementation, by relevant authoritative bodies and gaming operators.

Authorized Forms of Gambling in New Zealand

At the moment, New Zealand’s law offers a clear definition of land-based gambling under the Gambling Act of 2003. Operators have been given the mandate to offer punters, both casino and non-casino services, classified into four different classes depending on the type of gambling activity. Like in any other jurisdiction across the globe, every class must have a special license from the government to run. That sort of organization, coupled with straightforward division, lets the industry thrive wholly, with every operator well acquainted with their rights, duties, and responsibility towards the customers.

Legal Online Gambling

On online gambling in New Zealand, the situation is not as clear as is the case for land-based gambling. More particularly, the Gambling Act of 2003 takes a different direction for web-based betting practices, characterizing them as remote betting practices where bettors interact via mobile devices.

In line with New Zealand’s legal regulative for online betting, except for sports betting, any online gambling platform based in NZ is considered penal by the legal law. On the other hand, all offshore betting sites, including casinos, bookies, lottery, and bingo portals, don’t fall in the prohibited category. Therefore, punters can play at online casino sites based outside New Zealand.

Thus, what this means is that online casino operators aren’t allowed to operate from within the country to offer online gambling services, but Kiwis can play in offshore platforms without fear of rubbing shoulders with the law. As such, players must be exceptionally keen on where they play because, in case of any disputes with the operator, the country’s law can’t also offer them any protection.

About the author 

Peter Hatch

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