Call For Tougher NZ Online Casino Regulations

Tia Winter | 14 August 2019

A long-overdue overhaul of online gambling regulation may be on the cards for New Zealand. Internal affairs minister Tracy Martin said current legislation was out of date, and that substantial change was needed to bring it up to speed with today’s technology.

According to Martin, the laws still in force were introduced into a dramatically different 2003 technological landscape. Social media had only just begun, smartphones had not yet been developed, and modems and cables were an essential part of connecting to the Internet.

The government is determined to draft regulatory legislation that is relevant and effective, and already has begun with public participation. It has invited members of the public to comment on the four different regulatory models being considered. Comments must be submitted to the online gambling team of the Department of Internal Affairs by 30 September.

An Overview of Kiwi Gambling

Even a brief overview of the New Zealand gambling industry reveals a thriving one that is badly in need of updated regulation. It grew by $49m to $2.40bn between 2017 and 2018 alone.

Players spent $895m on pokies, $578m on other casino games, and $561m on lotteries. Additionally, they spent $350m on TAB, and $17m on society lotteries and other class 3 gaming.

As massive as the industry is, it is served by only two local operators, namely TAB and Lotto NZ. Players, however, are not necessarily limiting themselves to the offerings of homegrown gaming options. A large, increasing number of players choose to play at online casinos run by offshore operators.

Underage gambling and vulnerable groups are two areas of concern for the government. According to ministry of health statistics, 70% of New Zealanders aged 15 years and older had gambled at least once in the year before being surveyed. Young Maori, Pacific Islanders, and Asians and other expatriate communities were among the groups the ministry identified as vulnerable.

Possible Credit Card Ban

New Zealand’s gambling industry is ripe for change, but what forms it will take are yet to be seen. Some observers speculated that new regulations could end to the quasi-monopoly enjoyed by TAB and Lotto NZ by limiting their operations, and by opening up the local market to offshore operators.

Another possible change is the potential banning of credit cards as an online gambling payment method. The department of internal affairs announced it was considering the ban in July.