New Zealand gambling – is it a viable market?


Gambling laws

New Zealand has had a cautious relationship with gambling and it all started in 1642, with the arrival of the first European settlers and the various forms of gambling brought along with them. Those forms of gambling were allowed to flourish for 2 and a half centuries, when in 1904 the Gaming Act stipulated that the only place gambling was allowed was at the racetracks. Exactly 50 years later, the Golden Kiwi lottery was established by the Totalisator Agency Board which allowed the future development of casinos.

Currently all gambling is regulated by the Department of Internal Affairs, and not only are all activities taxed, but pokie, or slot, machines have to display how long a person has been gambling for and how much they have lost. All pokie machines in restaurants and bars are run by charitable organizations. In terms of online gambling, the only legal form is the lottery, other than that, online gambling is defined as “gambling by a person at a distance by interaction through a communication device.”, and is illegal.

It seems that people are able to access offshore gambling sites, however advertising of these sites, or the promotion of gambling if it takes place outside of New Zealand is illegal.

How much is spent?

Gambling is quite popular and profitable in New Zealand, and there are currently 6 forms of legal gambling that citizens are allowed to participate in; lottery games, casino games, gaming machines, sports betting, Greyhound racing and horse racing. The absolute most popular form of gambling is the use of pokie machines, otherwise known as slot machines. Currently there are pokie machines in about 1,500 locations, which contain an estimated 19,500 machines, run by around 380 license holders. Pokies are also popular on the online, offshore gambling sites mentioned above, these casinos often offer free spins on slots and bonuses to entice new users. Here is a list of some of the best offers available to New Zealand gamblers

An estimated $10 billion was wagered on these machines in 2018, increasing to $10.2 billion in 2019, and was expected to rise to $10.7 billion by the end of 2020. The second most popular form of gambling was in the casinos, which generated about $4 billion in 2015, rising to $4.4 billion in 2018, and was expected to reach $4.59 billion in 2020. The third most popular form of gambling is the New Zealand lottery which generated $1.2 billion in 2018, but dropped to $1.1 billion in 2019. Sports betting seems to be rising in popularity, generating $405 million in 2015, rising to $609 million in 2018 and was projected to increase to $672 million in 2020, which is an increase of 68%. Greyhound racing on the other hand seems to be dropping rapidly in popularity, generating $138 million in 2015, then to $110 million in 2018, and was expected to drop to $100 million in 2020.

How many casinos are there?

There are currently 6 licensed casinos in New Zealand, which are owned by SkyCity Entertainment Group. The economy and tourism flourished in 1994 when the first casino opened, which prompted more casinos to eventually open. Christchurch Casino was the first to open is available 24/7, contains 2 bars and 3 restaurants on the premises, and enforce a strict dress code.

Sky City was the second casino to have been built in New Zealand and is found within the SkyCity hotel. There are 2 hotels that provides over 300 rooms, 8 bars and 9 restaurants. The casino itself houses 110 table games and 1,647 slot machines, and is open 24/7.

SkyCity Hamilton is another popular casino which is open 16 hours a day from Sunday to Wednesday, and 18 hours a day from Thursday to Saturday. It was the third casino to open and offers 23 table games, a bingo room which seats 80 people and 350 slot machines.

Gambling is a popular pastime for many of the citizens in New Zealand and is only becoming more popular with each year. Laws related to online gambling may be changing soon, as the government has acknowledged that $381 million is being lost to offshore operators.

Currently there are only 2 legal online gambling providers, TAB and Lotto, but there could be more should the government decide to legalize online gambling. Gambling is a viable market within New Zealand, although it doesn’t seem like foreign operators will be able to gain a foothold any time soon.


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