New Zealand Gambling Regulation

Gambling Legislation imageGambling activities have been a preferred pastime of many New Zealanders for years now. Kiwis have access to various legal and regulated forms of gambling, including sports betting, wagering on horse races, slot machines, casino games, bingo, and lotteries. Bookmaking was illegal in the country between 1920 and 1961 but was decriminalized after the state-owned Totalisator Agency Board (TAB) commenced operations.

Lotteries are among the oldest forms of gambling in the country. They have been available since the mid 19th century after the launch of the first official art unions. The name is derived from the fact locals could participate in draws for the chance to win a work of art in exchange for paying a nominal fee.

Slot machines (pokies) were introduced in the country back in 1987 and quickly became the most popular form of gambling among locals. Today, they are available both in designated gambling venues and outside them in places like pubs and hotels. As for landbased casinos, there are six of those on the territory of New Zealand in Auckland, Hamilton, Queenstown, Christchurch, and Dunedin.

As of 2020, the country has introduced an amended legislative framework to tax offshore betting companies looking to offer their products and services to Kiwis. New Zealand has a well-developed gambling industry, with local gambling operators generating revenue of NZ$2.4 billion for the fiscal year 2018. Without further ado, let’s have a closer look at the legislation in the country and its policies on gambling.

Laws That Govern the New Zealand Gambling Industry

The primary piece of legislation that governs landbased gambling on the territory of New Zealand is the Gambling Act of 2003. Remote gambling operations are outside the scope of this act. It makes a distinction between four classes of legal betting activities, which include lotteries, casino gaming, instant-win games like scratch cards, and bingo.

Restrictions on Landbased Casinos
The Gambling Act of 2003

Licenses for Casino Gambling and Their Requirements

Licensing ProcedureOperators must cover certain requirements for suitability before the New Zealand Gambling Commission grants them a permit to conduct casino gambling. The regulator evaluates the financial position of the applicants to verify whether they are associated with bankruptcies or company liquidations in the past.

Applicants should also be in possession of adequate financial resources before they become eligible for permits. Once granted, the permits are not transferable according to Section 127 of the Gambling Act. In the case of landbased operators, a casino venue license is also necessary. It expires after 25 years, counted from the date on which gambling operations have commenced, after which time there is the option of renewal.

Certain employees on the casino floor, like the dealers, must also receive certificates of approval before they can conduct the games or handle money and chips. The same goes for the staff involved in the maintenance and repair of the gambling equipment in use.

Local laws require casino licensees to comply with specific hours of operation. Casino games should not be conducted on holidays like Christmas or Good Friday between 3 am and 1 pm. Landbased operators who violate this rule are at risk of incurring fines of up to NZ$10,000.

Additionally, each gaming table should display the minimum and maximum allowed wagers and information about the payouts. Copies of the games’ rules should be available upon customers’ request. Only employees who have undergone adequate training can conduct casino games. Casino license holders are disallowed from operating gaming machines on their premises that accept bills whose denomination exceeds NZ$20.

The 2003 Racing Act and the 2020 Racing Industry Act

2003 Racing Act

2020 Racing Industry Act

Sports betting is outside the scope of the 2003 Gambling Act. Until recently, it was regulated under the provisions of the 2003 Racing Act but this piece of legislation was repealed in the summer of 2020 after the passage of the Racing Industry Act of 2020.

This legislation introduced a new taxation system based on point of consumption and paved the way for the establishment of TAB New Zealand (TAB NZ), which provides sports and race betting services to Kiwis. A substantial portion of its returns goes back to the local sports and racing industry. TAB NZ serves as a successor to the New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB) and the Racing Industry Transitory Agency (RITA).

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Additionally, they are bound by wagering information agreements that require them to contribute fees for the information’s usage. Above all, such offshore operators are charged point-of-consumption fees on all wagers they accept from bettors who are permanently based in the country. This applies to all wagers taken on sporting and racing competitions no matter whether they take place on local soil or outside the country.

Since the regulations are new, the exact point-of-consumption fees are yet to be finalized. What is clear for the moment is that offshore betting operators whose revenue from bets made by New Zealanders is under NZ$60,000 for a given financial year will not have to pay point-of-consumption charges as stated in section 51 (1)(a) and section 117 of the legislation.

Those who fail to comply with the provisions of the 2020 Racing Industry Act will be penalized. The sanctions range from NZ$20,000 to NZ$50,000 depending on whether the violator is an individual or a corporate entity. Some of the funds collected from consumption fees and penalties will go toward the prevention and reduction of gambling harm. The rest will be used for preserving the integrity of the local racing and sports betting sectors.

Addiction Prevention and Responsible Gambling in New Zealand

Some of the primary purposes of the 2003 Gambling Act are to control the growth of the local gambling industry, prevent addiction, and minimize the harms associated with excessive gambling participation. This is achieved by imposing various restrictions in line with the Gambling (Harm Prevention and Minimisation) Regulations.

Restrictions Over Gaming machines
Prevention and Treatment of Gambling Addiction

Legal Gambling Age in New Zealand

casino laws imageParticipation in lottery-style games like Keno, Bulls Eye, Lotto, and Play 3 comes with no age restrictions in New Zealand. However, if an individual who is under 18 years old happens to win a sum that exceeds NZ$1,000, their parents or legal guardians must sign a special acknowledgment form before the underage winner can redeem the prize.

The access to instant win games and lotteries with frequent draws is restricted only to participants who are at least 18 years old. The underage participation in such activities is in violation of New Zealand’s Gambling Act of 2003 and so is purchasing instant win tickets on behalf of minors.

As for sports betting, young Kiwis must be 18 years old or older to wager on races and sporting competitions at TAB NZ. Those who violate this rule risk being penalized with fines to a maximum of NZ$500. The fines are higher at NZ$1,000 for individuals of legal age who make bets on behalf of minors.

Casino gaming floors are off-limits to Kiwis who are under 20 years old. The sanction for violation is a fine of up to NZ$500. With that said, some of the biggest landbased operators in New Zealand enforce stricter policies by issuing trespassing orders against any minor who accesses the gaming area. Such individuals will be prohibited from returning to the casino for two years. This rule applies even if the violator becomes of legal casino gambling age (20+) over this two-year period.

Kiwis can play on gaming machines (pokies) outside casinos (eg. in bars and restaurants) if they are 18 years old or above. However, if the machine operator has valid reasons to suspect a patron is underage, they have the right to deny payment of winnings. If said person provides proof of identity and age within seven days, they will be able to redeem their prize.

Gambling Advertisement Policies in New Zealand

The marketing of gambling products and services is overseen by the self-regulatory Advertising Standards Authority of New Zealand (ASA). This organization determines the standards for responsible marketing in the country in view of social responsibility. It released a new set of rules in the spring of 2019 via the Gambling Advertising Code which came into effect in August of the same year.

Under the New Policies
Gambling-Related Ads

Who Regulates New Zealand’s Gambling Industry

casino-regulation-licenceGambling activities in New Zealand fall within the remit of several agencies, starting with the primary regulator, the Department of Internal Affairs. This entity is mandated with gambling licensing and ensuring compliance with the provisions of the 2003 Gambling Act. It launches frequent consultations on how to increase compliance with local legislation. The Department also conducts frequent audits of gaming machines.

The local government has mandated the Ministry of Health with the responsibility of creating and implementing strategies to combat gambling addiction. The strategies must be reviewed every three years. Additionally, the Ministry of Health collects funding from gambling duties and uses them for treatment and prevention of problem gambling.

The New Zealand Gambling Commission is an independent regulatory body that was launched under the 2003 Gambling Act. It reviews casino permit applications and issues licenses. It has the power to revoke gambling license conditions and provide advice to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in regard to problem gambling duties.

TAB New Zealand was established after the passage of the Racing Industry Act of 2020. The main objectives of this statutory body include facilitating and promoting the growth of the local race and sports betting industry. The revenue generated by TAB NZ goes toward the local betting sector, with approximately NZ$170 million being poured back into racing and sports annually.

Closing Thoughts

New Zealand has an adequately regulated landbased gaming industry under the 2003 Gambling Act. The country presently lacks a licensing regime for the issuance of permits for online casino games. However, it has made a step in this direction with the introduction of the 2020 Racing Industry Act, which imposes point-of-consumption levies on remote betting operators.

Virtual betting cannot be provided legally domestically, with exceptions made only for authorized entities like TAB NZ and Lotto NZ. Kiwis can participate in online gambling via overseas websites without the fear of prosecution.