Is Online Gambling Legal In New Zealand?

Is Online Gambling Legal In New Zealand
Is Online Gambling Legal In New Zealand

When playing casino games at online casinos you do not have to worry about your legality in enjoying and gambling at the casino websites. It is because online gambling is legal in New Zealand and you can log on to any of your favourite online casinos and enjoy games without anything to worry about the legal aspect of gaming and gambling.

New Zealand players are welcome to play on most of the online gaming websites and as per the Gambling Act 2003, it is not illegal for someone in New Zealand to participate in gambling over the Internet if that website is based overseas.

Department of Internal Affairs- Gambling controller in New Zealand

All kinds of gambling in New Zealand are controlled by the Department of Internal Affairs. All public gambling is expected to return a portion of profits to the community. The largest proportion of the gambling industry is operated by state-owned institutions.

The Department of Internal Affairs casino and non-casino gambling services help keep gambling in New Zealand fair and honest. The Gambling Compliance Group audits and investigates non-casino gaming activities, licenses all non-casino gaming, and issues certificates of approval for casino employees. The casino inspectorate regulates all casino gaming activities.

Current and Previous Laws

Amendments to the Gambling Act 2003
Amendments to the Gambling Act 2003

Like all countries, New Zealand has a long history of gambling legislation detailing the legality of different forms of gambling from the Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1977, the Boxing and Wrestling Act of 1981, the Racing Act of 2003, and the Gambling Act of 2003– which best covers questions related to the legality of online casino gambling.

From an understanding of this Act, its wording itself, and the generally accepted interpretation, it is quite clear that “it is not illegal for someone in New Zealand to participate in gambling over the Internet if that website is based overseas.”

What has perhaps caused some confusion on the matter is Section 9(2)(b) of the Gambling Act 2003 which prohibits remote interactive gambling at gaming sites that are operated from within New Zealand.

The Act, however, does not explicitly prohibit players from playing at online casinos whose servers are in another country.

Amendments to the Gambling Act 2003

The Gambling Act of 2003 has been amended twice to date. First in 2005 and in March 2015. Neither of these amendments seems to have had any impact on the day-to-day rights of New Zealanders to play online.

Six important facts about New Zealand’s gambling laws

Six important facts about New Zealand’s gambling laws
Six important facts about New Zealand’s gambling laws

1. No liability for players

The terms of the Gambling Act 2003 are very clear—it is not explicitly prohibited nor explicitly illegal for a player living in New Zealand to play at an online casino that is based overseas. Therefore, at the time of writing, players are at no risk of any form of prosecution if they choose to gamble at a casino hosted outside of New Zealand.

2. Gambling winnings are exempt from taxation

There is no provision in the guidelines issued by Inland Revenue that relates specifically to winnings from online gambling. The guidelines do, however, make mention of income from gaming machines i.e., land-based pokies, stating that “all gaming machine income is exempt from income tax.”

This is because Inland Revenue considers that for most people, online gambling is a hobby or a pastime as opposed to a profession, and accordingly, any profits garnered aren’t regarded as taxable income. This, of course, is subject to change, and it’s always worth consulting an accountant before you get on with a major win!

3. Sports Betting

Sports Betting
Sports Betting

Online sports betting in New Zealand is controlled by the New Zealand Racing Board, which is the sole provider of racing and sports betting services through the TAB – a statutory national monopoly. However, international online sportsbooks fall into the same category as online casinos and so any sportsbook that is run from outside of New Zealand should likewise be able to take bets from New Zealanders.

Most Popular Betting Markets in New Zealand are the Rugby Union, Cricket, Football and Netball.

Netball, played almost exclusively by women in New Zealand, has also enjoyed a high profile in the country due to the success of its national team, the Silver Ferns, and the introduction of the trans-Tasman ANZ Championship in 2008. Cricket, netball, and rugby union betting markets are all widely available at best online bookmakers (as long as they’re based overseas).

Rugby union betting markets for domestic games aren’t as prevalent as they are for international matches, but bookmakers still offer markets for all Super Rugby games. Of the four main types of gambling in New Zealand, sports (and horse racing) betting is actually the least prominent, bringing in $NZ 286 million in 2012, compared to $NZ 850 million from pokies.

4. Playing Poker

Playing Poker
Playing Poker

The same laws are in place with regards to online poker rooms as online casinos—it is neither prohibited nor illegal for a New Zealand player to play online poker at a site housed outside of New Zealand.

5. Playing Lotteries

The first “Art Union” was conducted in New Zealand by the Otago Art Society in December 1877. Both individuals and organizations subsequently used them as a way of raising funds. The first national lotteries were established in 1933. They were known as “Art Unions”.

Prizes were relatively small, and in the early Art Unions, the prizes were quantities of alluvial gold. The low returns tempted many people to (illegally) purchase tickets in overseas lotteries such as the Australian Tattersall’s lottery. With Art Union sales declining, a review of lotteries was undertaken by the Second Labour Government in the late 1950s, and in 1961 the National Government introduced the Golden Kiwi lottery.

The New Zealand Lotteries Commission was established in 1987. Its original product, Lotto, has since been supplemented by Instant Kiwi scratch cards, daily Keno, and a Lotto variant named Big Wednesday. Lotto tickets became available online in 2008.

6. Playing Pokies

Much like the Aussie neighbors, Kiwis are fond of land-based slot machines, or ‘pokies’, as they are referred to in local slang. Charitable foundations first introduced these into bars and hotels in 1987, and since then, the number of machines has risen to over 19,000 across the country.

Land casinos are also popular gambling venues, with the country’s six casinos taking in over $NZ 500 million in 2012. Since 1 July 2009, all machines have Player Information Displays, which inform the gambler how long they have been playing, how much they have lost, and which encourage them to take breaks. You can enjoy pokies machines at online casinos that are regulated overseas.

Regulatory boards monitoring online casinos

Regulatory boards monitoring online casinos
Regulatory boards monitoring online casinos

Within New Zealand, numerous regulatory agencies monitor gambling – both online and offline. These include the Department of Internal Affairs (responsible for administering gambling legislation), the Ministry of Health (responsible for preventing problem gambling and protecting those afflicted), and the Gambling Commission (responsible for issuing and renewing licenses for casino operators).

Keep in mind, none of these bodies will cover you for gambling online – except perhaps the Ministry of Health, who you can always turn to if needed.

Playing at an international online casino i.e., one based outside of New Zealand, means that in the case of fraud, unfair practices, or any other issues, you will be subject to the legal system of the country that hosts the site, not New Zealand law.

However, this doesn’t mean that players are without protection. All of the online casinos are accredited by the gaming authorities of their respective countries, and the relevant documentation and certification can be found on their sites.

In addition, all of the reputed casinos are independently audited by a third-party agency, who certifies the casino in terms of the fairness of its games, the security of its operations, and the transparency of its financial dealings with players.

Two such agencies that certify such online casinos are eCOGRA, a London-based testing agency and player protection organization, and TST (part of GLI), which verifies that casinos comply with relevant regulatory requirements and the best industry standards worldwide.

Note that you must be 18 years old to place a bet with the TAB or bet at the horse racing tracks and the legal age to enter any casino in New Zealand is 20 years.

Therefore, online gambling for New Zealand players is not illegal and to date, no one has ever been prosecuted for gambling on offshore sites. But remember, laws much like governments themselves are subject to change and you need to keep yourself updated on the latest gambling laws from time to time.