Editorial

Gambling Regulations in New Zealand

Gambling has been technically legal in New Zealand since way back in 1835, however, the country’s legislative attitude towards gambling is known as one of the strictest in the world. NZ’s highly-regulated approach to domestic gambling has led to a surge in interest in offshore online casinos amongst players in the country, revealing chinks in the national armor and prompting discussion of further regulation. But what does this mean for casino gamers based in New Zealand?

Gambling & The Law in New Zealand

According to the New Zealand police website, there are strict rules and regulations relating to every facet of gambling in the country, from game rules and prizes to licensing and withdrawals. Generally speaking, gambling in New Zealand is divided into four classes or categories, with most casino games (including instant play games, games of chance, lotteries and prize competitions/tournaments) falling into classes 1 to 3. Class 4 gambling would usually entail the use of real money gaming machines outside of a land-based casino setting. Let’s take a quick glance at the current NZ gambling classes:

  • Class 1: This kind of gambling can be conducted without a license. Prizes or turnover may not exceed 500NZD.
  • Class 2: Class 2 gambling may also be conducted without a license. However, prizes or turnover must be more than 500NZD and less than 5,000NZD.
  • Class 3: This kind of gambling is classed as such when the prize or turnover of a single gambling session exceeds 5,000NZD. To act as a Class 3 operator, providers must be licensed by the Department of Internal Affairs.
  • Class 4: Usually applicable to pubs and clubs, this class is designed to promote responsible gaming and regulate business owners, requiring a proper license.

The law is pretty rigid when it comes to the variations of gambling that are permitted. At present, the types of legal gambling in the Land of the Long White Cloud are scratch cards, casino games, lottery games, bingo, gaming machines (e.g. pokies), instant games, keno and sports betting.

Is Online Gambling Illegal in NZ?

What may seem confusing to those based either in NZ or further afield is that, while domestic online gambling is prohibited in the country (that is, gambling with local NZ-operated platforms), gambling with properly licensed offshore online casinos is perfectly legal. This means that, as long as you’re playing with a reputable licensed platform and you stick to national rules when it comes to playing and withdrawing your funds, you should be able to play legally with online casinos in New Zealand. You’ll be happy to learn that kiwi online casinos are available and feature all of the same games, bonuses as well as benefits usually awarded to international players, including flexible banking options and speedy withdrawal processing times.

Why is NZ Likely to Further Regulate Online Gambling?

Because many kiwi players have flocked to offshore online casinos, a gap has emerged in which rogue, unlicensed or unregulated platforms from abroad have undermined the stringent gambling laws which apply to domestic operators. As the regulation of gambling in New Zealand is informed by The Gambling Act 2003, the legislation has not undergone a thorough makeover for nearly 20 years, in which time the online gambling market has shifted, grown and changed. The recent regulation of gambling advertising in Holland is a clear indicator of a global shift towards responsible gaming and a more tightened regulation of the gambling industry, especially an online casino market that is still relatively new and unparalleled in its dynamism. The Gambling Act 2003 has been amended twice since its publication, and it seems highly likely that NZ gambling regulation is set to be restructured even further in the coming years, in order to get the legislation up to speed.

Why is Online Gambling Regulation So Important?

With a recent UK study finding that harm caused by gambling losses is felt disproportionately by those with a lower socioeconomic status and some alarming harm-related statistics correlating with a boost in gambling revenue following the COVID pandemic, it seems that the gambling industry worldwide is being forced to rethink its position on access and responsible gaming. Allowing unlicensed or unregulated operators to conduct business can lead to unfair game content, data theft, insecure payment processing and unnecessary financial loss.

What is the Future of Online Gambling in New Zealand?

OK, so we don’t have a crystal ball here, but chances are that the legislation of online gambling in the country is likely to see some dramatic amendments in the coming years as the rise of blockchain, cryptocurrency and VR tech only accelerates the online casino and sportsbook betting boom. New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs conducted a recent review into online gambling and its legislation in the country, in which a desire was expressed to ‘update our laws for today’s digital world’. Whether it be a relaxation of domestic online gambling laws, tightened regulation of offshore operators or both, the future of iGaming in the country looks bright indeed!

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