Complete Guide to Casino Gambling for New Zealand

Gambling has been a part of New Zealand life for centuries now. While it has undergone some periods of strict regulation, today, Kiwis are legally allowed to participate in many forms of gambling as regulated by the Department of Internal Affairs. This includes sports gambling, horse racing, lotteries, mobile "pokies" (slot machines), and playing at online casinos based outside of New Zealand's borders.

Our comprehensive guide covers everything New Zealand gamblers need to know, including:

  • A clear guide to the laws covering New Zealand gambling
  • Your tax obligations explained
  • Learn what you will expect to find at an online casino
  • Specific tips for New Zealand players

Legal Gambling in New Zealand

Gambling has been documented in New Zealand as early as the 1830s, when Kiwis would bet primarily on horse racing. Despite the island's isolated location, New Zealand-resident George Julius made an impact on the sports and gambling world that is still felt today. In 1913, he invented the "automatic totalisator", also known as a tote board, or the machine in the infield at racing tracks that lets fans see which horses are in what position during a race.

After long periods of prohibition on almost all forms of gambling in the country, gambling expenditures now total around $NZ 2 billion per year. Pokies account for 35% of this sum, followed by casinos which make up another 26%, then lottos at 21%, and sports betting at 18%. All public gaming entities are required to donate a portion of profits toward the bettering of the community and today there are six land-based casinos operating on the islands. The law also dictates that New Zealanders can legally play at casinos online IF they are not actually based in New Zealand.

What were the first gambling laws enacted?

Bookmaking in New Zealand became prohibited in the 1920s, and betting on horse racing was only permitted at the track until 1961. Regulation on all other gambling was also stringent until the 1980s when lottery games as well as casinos were approved by Parliament. Pokies (slot machines) were legalized and introduced shortly after, as were casinos, with the very first one opening in 1994.

What laws apply to modern-day gambling in New Zealand?

Under the Gambling Act 2003, all gambling is prohibited unless authorized by the government. Gambling is categorized into four classes, each of which requires a special license from the government in order to operate. Maximum prize amounts and turnovers vary from class to class. Players must be at least 20 years of age to enter casinos but only 18 to participate in sports betting (including horse racing), scratch cards, and lotteries.

Gambling-related activities that are still prohibited across the board include bookmaking and remote interactive (online) gambling. But, while Kiwi law dictates that it is illegal for players to gamble at any online casino based in New Zealand, any player of age can legally play at online casinos based outside the country. However, advertising from overseas gaming operators within New Zealand is banned.

Who regulates the New Zealand gaming industry?

Gambling in New Zealand is regulated by The Gambling Commission, which is encompassed in the Department of Internal Affairs. Established in 2003, the Commission licenses casinos, specifies conditions for licensing, and approves agreements between casino operators and casino venue license holders.

New Zealand Player Information

New Zealanders that want to gamble online should have no fear of government repercussion as long as the casino they are choosing to play on is not based within the borders of New Zealand. While the NZD isn't accepted at as many online casinos as other currencies, there are still many high-quality ones that do (several of which are listed on this page).

Kiwis who want to gamble with New Zealand-based operators are limited to gaming machines (aka slots or pokies), lottery games, sports/racing betting, and gambling at one of the nation's six brick-and-mortar casinos.

How many New Zealanders gamble regularly?

It is estimated that 80% of all New Zealanders (about 3.6 million people) gamble in some form or another, with many of these players participating in lottery games only. In 2013, players spent over $2 billion NZD (about $1.5 billion USD or €1.3 billion EUR) on outside gaming machines (pokies), lotteries, sports betting, and at live casinos. Gambling overall has dropped about 19% since 2004, however expenditure on lotto games has increased 22% from a decade ago.

Can New Zealanders play at international casino sites?

While New Zealand's gaming regulations might seem strict at first, in reality they are focused simply on shutting down New Zealand-based operators that are not licensed by the state. The law is clear that as long as the player is of age, there are no laws prohibiting New Zealanders from playing at online casinos based elsewhere. That means you can enjoy all the top casino games such as keno, craps, poker, video poker, blackjack, baccarat, roulette, keno and slots (pokies), any time you want.

Can I legally deposit and withdraw money to online casinos?

Yes. It is perfectly legal to deposit and withdraw real money with international online casinos as long as the online gambling operator is based overseas and not in New Zealand. Many top online casinos even accept NZD.

Do I have to pay taxes on my iGaming winnings?

No! As long as you are playing at an online casino based internationally, New Zealanders are able to keep 100% of their winnings and are not subject to income tax.

Do online casinos offer play in NZD?

Yes. The top online casinos for New Zealand players we have reviewed on this page all accept NZD. Players can typically deposit and withdraw in NZD, play in that currency, and see their transaction history in New Zealand dollars on these sites. Playing at a site that accepts kiwis means no exchanging currency, which often has fees associated with it.

Secure Online Play for New Zealanders

Because there are no New Zealand-based online casinos, Kiwi players will have to trust the gambling regulation and laws in other countries. However, with New Zealand being such a big market that has no domestic casinos to go to, many of the top online casinos worldwide try and bring in New Zealanders by accepting NZD.

Checking for a certification from a highly-regarded testing agency (like eCOGRA), as well as the proper license in the country where the casino's operations are based, will almost always guarantee that players have made a smart consumer decision in an online casino. These credentials are typically displayed prominently on the bottom of every quality online casino's homepage. If this information can't be found without minimal effort, then consider that to be a red flag for that particular operator.

How do New Zealanders know that their funds are safe?

When shopping for a reputable real-money online casino, players should always look for the eCOGRA logo at the bottom of the casino's home page. This certification signifies that the casino has met stringent security testing standards, has the most complex encryption, and that the operator practices fair gaming procedures. Upon seeing this seal, New Zealand players should feel at peace entrusting their NZD to these casinos.

Is play fair on the online casinos?

All online casinos with an eCOGRA (or similar certification), are inspected and audited regularly to meet high standards of quality. Among many others, these standards include protecting the privacy of the customer and safeguarding their information through encryption software. Practices such as random-number generator analysis and regular game inspections are also standard for every certified online casino. Reports about casinos that try and scam players are also widely available online.

Does a player have recourse if they suspect unfair activity?

Yes. While the New Zealand government doesn't have jurisdiction over any overseas-based casino, players who feel they have been slighted can report gaming sites to the company that licenses the online casino. Quality-assurance organizations like eCOGRA also look into disputes with operators that they certify.

Responsible Gaming for New Zealanders

New Zealanders have many resources available to help overcome problem gambling. The Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand offers gambling addiction help lines, counseling, and support groups.

Those seeking help (or looking to help someone else) can also find a variety of educational materials as well as meeting times and locations on the organization's site as well at pgfnz.org.nz. The Gambling Helpline New Zealand (http://www.gamblinghelpline.co.nz) is another great resource that offers similar services.

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