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The growth of gambling activities in New Zealand

The growth of gambling activities in New Zealand

The interest in all types of gaming across New Zealand is growing rapidly – as it is across most of the world.

In what has previously been considered a rather conservative country, more and more players are now interested in finding new places to enjoy their favourite games, whether it’s in live venues or online casinos.

With a limited number of bricks-and-mortar casinos available that are spread across the two main islands, huge numbers are being forced to turn to online casino gaming sites.

The official restrictions in this country mean that online gaming can be more complex for New Zealand players than in many other countries. Some have fully embraced the digital gaming revolution – others, like New Zealand, still seem to be in a period of transition.

New Zealanders can find that generally the regulations and rules about gaming are still somewhat restrictive and complex compared to other affluent countries.

The gaming rules in New Zealand mean that it’s less straightforward for enthusiastic players to join in the modern surge of interest in online casino games like poker and slots. The demand seems to be growing but the playing opportunities still seem to be fewer.

The gaming world in New Zealand

All gaming in New Zealand is controlled by the government. Overall these laws have been very strict on many forms of gaming and gambling over the past century.

The Department of Internal Affairs is currently in charge of all gaming in the country and various state-owned or government-controlled institutions operate much of the gaming industry that is actually permitted.

Betting on horse racing for example is only available through the official Totalisator Agency Board, or TAB. All scratch cards and lotteries are meanwhile operated by the New Zealand Lotteries Commission.

The situation with physical slot machines – or pokies as locals often call them – is more convoluted.

Many of the machines are placed in hotels and bars and operated by charitable foundations to raise money for good causes. The government however restricts maximum jackpots.

Land-based casinos

There are still a few popular land-based casinos in the country – but not many. At the time of writing there are only six legalised casinos across five different cities on New Zealand’s two main islands.

The city that forms New Zealand’s gaming hotspot is the unlikely location of Queenstown on South Island, the only city in the country that has two casinos. Other casinos operate in Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Dunedin and Christchurch.

Sky City Auckland Casino is the country’s largest, offering 100 table games, including nine poker tables. It has operated since 1996 and also houses 2,100 video poker and gaming machines.

The demand for game playing in New Zealand is clear: the casino stays open all day and night throughout the week. The casino is known for its responsible attitude to managing any problems associated with gaming.

It also offers special learning sessions for players to pick up the skills of the table games like blackjack, baccarat, pai gow, roulette, tai sai, and poker.

The Auckland casino is based in the Sky Tower in the central business district of the city. The Sky City complex, including a hotel and conference centre, also offers special VIP gaming rooms and even now offers a motor yacht for entertaining high-rolling clients.

Sky City Entertainment Group also operates both the casinos in Queenstown and one in Hamilton, which overlooks the Waikato River and includes suave bars and restuarants.

Dunedin’s casino is housed in The Exchange, a grand Victorian hotel building with a classic Monte Carlo atmosphere. Christchurch’s is housed in a modern purpose-built casino on Victoria Street and includes an electronic sports arena. Players here can play and use the free PlayStations.

The growth of gambling activities in New Zealand

Online casinos for Kiwi players

Like many other countries, online casinos have become extremely popular in New Zealand in recent years. Laws in the islands are still restrictive though.

Online casinos cannot be based in New Zealand – but players are allowed to access gaming sites based overseas. The growing market among Kiwi gamers means an increased number of foreign casino operators have targeted the New Zealand market with many options available.

One of the most popular types of online casino games in New Zealand is online pokies, with nearly all online casino operators offering pokies games. Pokies games are well known in New Zealand and Australia and are known as slot games in many other countries across the world.

Pressure to liberalise New Zealand gaming law

Increasing pressure is coming on the government to loosen the restrictions on access to gaming in New Zealand. Critics of the strict regulations point out the benefits to the economy that are being denied.

Land-based casinos for example provide many hospitality jobs and attract visitors. Online casinos attract digital designers.

Both industries are very profitable and online operators in particular are now generating large turnovers comparable with the largest industrial sectors. In other marketplaces these turnovers are heavily taxed by governments.

This brings huge revenues into the public domain and allows governments to keep tight control over the industry.

Industry experts point out that in New Zealand the government has no control over overseas online casinos and makes no tax income from them.

Overall conclusions

The latest statistics show Kiwis spend around $2.6 billion on gambling a year. The demand for access to these leisure activities seems to be growing.

This creates pressure on the government to reform its legislation. Critics say there is an opportunity to earn more revenue from taxation.

Large numbers of New Zealand players are meanwhile opting to visit online casino sites that are based overseas. Increasing numbers of these are aimed at Kiwi players – including some that advertise they are for New Zealanders only.

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