Kiwis Fourth Biggest Punters in the World

Gambling stats in New Zealand
Gambling stats in New Zealand

New Zealand’s opposition Labour Party in the year 2104 called for tighter controls on pokies following a survey that shows Kiwis are the world’s fourth-biggest gamblers per capita. Do you know Kiwis’ fourth biggest punters?

According to the Internal Affairs spokesman Trevor Mallard, the government’s deal with SkyCity for a convention centre in exchange for more pokies in its casino will worsen the situation. “It’s a disgrace that New Zealand is number four in the world for gambling, according to the analysis in The Economist.”

Trevor suggested tighter rules and more controls on pokies. This survey by UK consultancy H2 Gambling Capital puts New Zealand gambling losses at about $US500 ($A573) per resident.

Woolworths, one of Australia’s biggest supermarket chains, is the biggest operator of pokies in the country. It manages about 12,000 machines through its majority stake in the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, which runs bars, restaurants and wagering.

Though the Woolworths Group doesn’t distinguish liquor sales from gambling revenues in its annual report, estimates indicate that it pulls more than 1 billion Australian dollars, or $770 million, in revenue from the machines each year.

Pokies are regulated on a state-by-state basis instead of by the federal government. Western Australia is the only state or territory that bans the operation of pokies other than casinos.

State budgets are increasingly made up of revenues from the machines, and legalized gambling, including from pokies, accounted for 7.7 per cent of total tax revenues for Australian states in 2016.

In some parts of Australia, gamers can deposit 7,500 Australian dollars into a machine in one transaction and lose more than a thousand dollars per hour.

Australia has the most considerable Gambling Losses

Australia has the most considerable gambling losses per capita, at over $US1000 ($A1,146), with Singapore and Finland second and third respectively.

The global gambling industry gathered in London in 2014 for the annual ICE gaming conference. It should be a happy affair, with gross winnings (total take minus payouts, excluding expenses) of around $440 billion in 2013. 

Then, the industry’s biggest expo was held in London in 2017; exhibitors with over 3,000 stands advertise the latest products designed to part punters from their cash, ranging from gaming apps to pokies machines and virtual-reality games.

As in other businesses, firms that were quick to embrace new technology have reaped the rewards: online gaming is the industry’s fastest-growing sector, accounting for 11% of the $385 billion in gambling profits posted in 2016.

But unlike companies that sell less controversial services, courting government regulators appears to be just as important as luring bettors for the bottom line.

Australians gamble (and lose) more than anyone else on a per-person basis, according to H2 Gambling Capital (H2GC), a British consultancy.

The most significant chunk of this is spent on video poker machines, though tighter regulation in recent years has seen the country fall to sixth place in absolute terms.

In Singapore, casino gambling is favoured, while Finns seem to prefer interactive gaming. (Macau does not feature in the rankings because its gambling revenue comes almost entirely from tourists, mainly from mainland China).

America remains the world’s biggest market, but its global share has fallen from nearly a third to a quarter in the past decade.

Check out Gaming Lounge in Auckland

This is partly because of a ban on most interactive gambling (sports betting and other games played on mobile phones, computers, or interactive TV).

Over the same period, China has risen from the tenth-biggest market to the second-largest, with losses of $76 billion. Simon Holliday of H2GC expects China to become the world’s biggest market by 2023.

Social Cost of Problem Gambling in New Zealand

In New Zealand, the estimated social cost of problem gambling in New Zealand, while significant to the families involved, is just 1-2% of the social cost of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

The figure below shows the estimated social costs of the harmful use of tobacco, alcohol, other drugs, and gambling.

New Zealand Gambling problem - kiwis fourth biggest punters
New Zealand Gambling problem

Contrary to statements made by the Problem Gambling Foundation (PGF), there is no evidence available that suggests that problem gamblers in New Zealand account for 40% of all gambling expenditures.

There are currently no New Zealand data available to support this claim.

The 40% figure used by PGF has come from a 2010 Australian Productivity Commission report. The Australian gambling environment is very different from New Zealand, with the density of gaming machines more than double and the gambling spending per capita nearly double.

Consequently, the New Zealand percentage of gambling expenditure by problem gamblers is likely to be far lower than in Australia.

A 2011 research paper, Gambling Away Perspective review of the evidence justifying electronic gaming regulations, was critical of the Productivity Commission report and suggested the spending by problem gamblers was, in fact, between 10% and 20%.

A reduction of around 4,000 machines nationwide since 2007 has had almost no impact on the small percentage of problem gamblers nationally.

Gaming Machines in NZ
Gaming Machines in NZ

Online Gambling in New Zealand

Imposing restrictions on gaming machines and venues may drive gamblers away from the controlled environment of gaming lounges to the uncontrolled environment of online gambling.

Not only is there no help available for online gamblers, but the money gambled does not return approximately a third to the community, a third to the government, and a third to gaming operators, as is currently the case.

Online gambling is growing at a rapid rate. In the United Kingdom, about the same proportion of gamblers play poker machines online as those who play in person.

Unfortunately, the NZ Health Survey does not cover online gambling, but we can probably assume the numbers are not too different from the UK.

Click here to learn more about the current status of gambling in New Zealand.

About the author

Nav Wilson

Nav Wilson

Nav Wilson is a key contributor, bringing fresh insights into the gaming world. Hailing from Auckland, Nav expertly balances local know-how with a global gaming perspective. Outside of crafting compelling reviews, he's an avid surfer, drawing parallels between catching waves and hitting jackpots.