New Zealand punters love to play pokies at casinos or play table games and gamble on different other casino games. It is estimated that more than NZ$381m ($244m) has been bet through offshore online gambling operators over the past 18 months in 2018-2019. This includes online sportsbooks and casinos. This shows that online gambling is on the rise in NZ as Kiwis are fond of playing pokies with their mobiles even on the go. But many things cause concern for government. The government of New Zealand do not want to create problem gamblers in the country and this is reviewing the 2003 Gambling Act to make it more current in this digital age.
Four different potential reforms
The Department of Internal Affairs NZ is to review the Gambling act and make certain reforms. Officials are proposing four different potential reform options. Three of the four options would grant New Zealanders access to more types of gambling products. The final option proposes keeping things the way they are currently.
TAB and Lotto NZ to offer online casinos
Note that the only legal online gambling operators operating in New Zealand at the moment are TAB and Lotto. Therefore to try and get New Zealanders to stop using offshore gambling platforms, one of the reforms would allow these two providers to add more gambling options, such as an online casino.
As more and more states across the world are legalizing online gambling. The worldwide market for the activity is set to double from 2017 to 2024. The two operators in New Zealand have been trying to keep up with demand from gamblers. This saw them introduce Texas Hold’em poker and online scratchies in January, as well as more extensive live streaming options.
The digital platforms of TAB now account for 60% of its total betting turnover. Their mobile platform is growing rapidly, with its popularity having increased by 59% in the latest period.
They have been rolling out extensive advertising campaigns to try and attract new customers. According to the TAB annual report, this led to nearly 80,000 first-time bettors signing up for accounts. While there would likely be voluntary compliance for this option according to the DIA, it would be good for New Zealanders as they would have access to better odds and promotions due to the competition.
More licenses to NZ operators
Another reform would see more casino licenses being handed out in New Zealand for gambling operators. They will also look at increasing awareness about problem gambling, as well as committing more funds towards problem gambling treatment programs. The New Zealand government did commit an additional NZ$60m ($39m) to funding problem gambling services at the start of 2019. For a relatively small country, they spend a lot more per capita on problem gambling than most major nations.
Offshore casinos to get license from NZ
The third expansion proposal would see international operators being able to apply for a license in New Zealand. Also one of the options is to ban or heavily restrict the way people use credit cards to add funds to online gambling accounts. The government will also look into banning certain platforms from being accessed through public wifi.
The authorities are also trying their best to stop residents from accessing illegal offshore online gambling platforms. While New Zealanders can legally use the offshore platforms to gamble, some of these platforms have New Zealand domains, which is not legal. The authorities sent requests to 13 operators to close their New Zealand website addresses with immediate effect.
Problem Gambling Protections
Besides the above reforms the government of New Zealand also proposes to protect the problem gamblers in the country. According to the Ministry of Health, there are low numbers of gamblers that are calling them for help with online gambling. However, a spokesperson for the Problem Gambling Foundation (PGF) believes that this is because it is still a relatively new sector in New Zealand.
The PGF spokesperson said: “The very nature of online gambling is hidden – you can carry around a betting agency in your pocket. You can gamble in bed, at work, or on the toilet.” While the Internal Affairs department in New Zealand is seeking to potentially expand the scope of the country’s two gambling operators, they are also making some strides to protect problem gamblers.
This is just scratching the surface according to the Problem Gambling Foundation. They are in support of the credit cards restrictions, but they are still calling for tougher measures.
The last amendment of Problem Gambling under 2003 gambling act happened in March 2015 and is expected to take another update this year.
To support this, the Gambling (Harm Prevention and Minimization) Regulations, according to last amendment is:
- Restrictions on venues suitable for operating gaming machines
- No automated teller machines (ATMs) allowed in the gambling area of a venue
- Maximum stake and prize limits for gaming machines
- A feature on each gaming machine which interrupts play at intervals of not more than 30 minutes of continuous play (the messages display information about the duration of play, amount of money spent and net wins or losses)
- Restrictions on jackpot branding and advertising
- Requirement to give venue staff problem gambling awareness training
- Requirement to make information about problem gambling available to patrons
- Ability for venue staff to issue exclusion orders to patrons
- Gamblers can also request a Multi Venue Exclusion if they want to be excluded from more than one gambling venue.
Finally it is hoped that the above updates and reforms will certainly help Kiwi punters to regulate their pokies play to some extent and save themselves from the losses they occur while playing pokies or the addiction they get into to play more.