A Snapshot of New Zealand’s Gambling Habits

new zealand's gambling habits
New Zealand’s Gambling Habits

Many people in New Zealand enjoy gambling alongside other fun activities. This article, A Snapshot of New Zealand’s Gambling Habits, examines how people in New Zealand play games where luck is involved.

We’ll talk about the history, who plays these games, and how technology has changed things. It’s not just about winning money; we’ll also see how gambling affects society and the economy and what rules are in place.

Whether you’re curious or involved in making decisions, this journey will give you a good idea of how gambling fits into New Zealand’s story.

Gambling in New Zealand

Popularity at Play:

  • 62% of Kiwis gamble in a year, with lotteries and pokie machines leading the pack.
  • The industry generates billions, contributing to government coffers and community projects.
  • Online gambling is on the rise, offering convenience but also new avenues for potential harm.

Evolution of Gambling in NZ

Evolution of Gambling in NZ
Evolution of Gambling in NZ

Gambling has been a constant companion in New Zealand’s history, evolving from early Maori games to the multi-billion dollar industry we see today.

Let’s buckle up and explore some key milestones:

Early Days (19th Century)

Traditional Maori Games and the Rise of Horse Racing were popular then.

Before Europeans arrived, the Maori engaged in traditional games like Poi Poi and Takapau, blending skill and chance and setting the stage for a gambling culture.

With European settlers, horse racing became a national obsession, leading to the opening of the first official racecourse in Auckland in 1842.

Gambling Landscape Evolution (20th Century)

As gambling gained popularity, worries about its impact on society emerged. In 1920, bookmaking for horse racing was banned, causing a temporary decline.

However, this led to the rise of national lotteries in 1933, offering a more controlled and socially accepted form of gambling, particularly the beloved Lotto.

Pokies and Casino Boom (Late 20th Century – Early 21st Century)

Pokie Machines: In 1988, electronic gaming machines (pokies) were legalized, sparking accessibility and controversy.

The ’90s saw the introduction of casinos, with SkyCity Auckland opening in 1996, becoming a major tourist attraction and revenue source.

Rising Concerns: Increased accessibility and marketing in the late 20th century caused a surge in gambling expenditure, raising worries about problem gambling and social harm.

The Gambling Act 2003 response focused on responsible gambling initiatives and stricter licensing.

Adapting to the Digital Age (21st Century)

Online Gambling: The 2000s brought the rise of online gambling, prompting efforts to regulate it with the Gambling Act 2008. However, challenges persist in controlling online access.

Prioritizing Harm Reduction: Public awareness campaigns, tighter advertising rules, and better support services for problem gamblers have become priorities.

Looking Ahead (Future Perspectives)

  • Enhanced Player Protection:
    • AI-powered safeguards detect risky play patterns.
    • Personalized limits like dynamic betting caps and deposit restrictions.
    • Biometric authentication using facial recognition or fingerprints for added security.
  • Culturally Aware Support:
    • Multilingual support services addressing diverse needs.
    • Community-based outreach with Maori and Pasifika communities.
    • Financial literacy programs for informed decision-making.
  • Innovation for Good:
    • Gamification for responsible gambling through educational apps.
    • Interactive risk assessments with AI-powered questionnaires.
    • Blockchain-based transparency for secure and fraud-resistant operations.

This glimpse into the future of online gambling in New Zealand envisions a safer environment with advanced player protection, culturally sensitive support, and innovative tools promoting responsible gaming.

popularity of gambling habits in nz
Popularity of Gambling Habits in NZ

New Zealanders have a knack for a good gamble and plenty of choices. Let’s check out what people love and how it changes as we get older:

  • Lotteries: The go-to choice for over half the population, featuring Lotto, Powerball, and Instant Kiwi scratchies.
  • Pokie Machines: Despite controversies, these electronic wonders remain popular, raking in billions annually.
  • Sports Betting: Kiwis love supporting their teams, with rugby union, cricket, and horse racing taking the lead.
  • Casino Games: Blackjack, roulette, and pokies draw enthusiasts, offering a glamorous dive into chance.
  • Online Gambling: The latest addition is gaining traction, especially among the younger crowd.

Age-Based Preferences:

  • 18-24:
    • Online gambling platforms, sports betting, and mobile scratchies for tech-savvy individuals.
    • Poker and fantasy sports leagues also find favour in this age group.
  • 25-44:
    • Traditional lotteries, pokies in casinos and bars, and sports betting rule the roost.
    • Bingo nights and casino visits are occasional indulgences for this age range.
  • 45-64:
    • Lotto remains a staple, joined by pokies at clubs and casinos.
    • Horse racing still holds its charm, with occasional sports event flutters.
  • 65+:
    • Instant Kiwi scratchies and classic Lotto provide a familiar experience.
    • Casino visits for pokies and table games become delightful social outings.

Impact of Gambling in New Zealand

Technology has transformed how Kiwis gamble, bringing both advantages and challenges:

  • Accessibility: Online casino platforms make gambling easy from home or on the go.
  • Variety: Kiwis enjoy diverse options with virtual casinos, sports betting sites, and online lotteries.
  • On-the-Go Betting: Mobile apps allow quick and easy gambling from anywhere.
  • Interactive Experience: Electronic gaming machines (pokies) offer a more engaging experience.
  • Concerns: Digital pokies raise worries about increased addiction.
  • Online Regulation: Regulators grapple with adapting to and regulating the fast-growing online gambling space.
  • Balancing Act: Striking a balance between innovation and responsible gambling is challenging.
  • Increased Accessibility: Technology raises concerns about more people facing gambling issues.
  • Blockchain Integration: Blockchain may enhance transparency and security in the gambling industry.

As technology continues to evolve, its impact on gambling in New Zealand will likely shape the industry’s future trajectory, necessitating a careful balance between innovation and responsible gambling practices.

Regulatory and Safety Measures

The Gambling Act 2003: This cornerstone legislation establishes four gambling classes, sets age restrictions, and outlines operator licensing requirements.

Department of Internal Affairs: The department oversees gambling regulation, issues licenses, monitors compliance and enforces the Act.

Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA): Established in 2018, the ILGA adjudicates licensing applications and investigates potential breaches of the Act.

Key Measures:

  • Age restrictions: Gambling is illegal for those under 20 years old.
  • Licensing and controls: Operators require licenses based on the type and class of gambling they offer. Strict criteria on location, responsible gambling practices, and advertising are enforced.
  • Problem gambling initiatives: Funding is allocated for research, education, and support services to address problem gambling and minimize harm.
  • Responsible gambling advertising: Advertising restrictions limit gambling ads’ time, placement, and content to protect vulnerable groups.

Economic and Social Impact

In New Zealand, gambling is a mix of exciting bets, fun entertainment, and important things to think about. It helps the country’s economy, but it also has good and bad effects on society.

Economic Contribution:

  • $2.3 billion: Annual gross gambling expenditure in New Zealand (2023).
  • $550 million: Annual contribution to government revenue through gambling taxes and duties.
  • 12,000+ jobs: Directly created by the gambling industry in casinos, TABs, and online platforms.
  • $50 million+: Annual direct funding from gambling profits allocated to community projects and initiatives.

Societal Effects:


  • 18 million: Number of New Zealanders participating in gambling in the past year (62% of the population).
  • 20%: Some adult Kiwis enjoy lottery products like Lotto and Powerball for recreational purposes.
  • $50 million+: Annual charitable contributions from gambling operators supporting various social and environmental causes.
  • Increased tourism revenue: Casinos and large-scale sports betting events attract international visitors, contributing to the tourism industry.


  • 1 in 5: New Zealanders experience some level of gambling harm in their lifetime.
  • Maori and Pacific: Communities disproportionately affected by gambling harm, with rates 2-3 times higher than the national average.
  • $4.4 billion: Estimated annual cost of problem gambling to New Zealand society, including healthcare, lost productivity, and social services.

Finding Balance

In New Zealand, they’re working hard to keep things in check when it comes to gambling.

Most Kiwis, about 70%, want stricter rules for gambling ads and access, showing they’re keen on a more controlled setup.

An even bigger number, a whopping 90%, believe that services to help with problem gambling should be easy to get.

In 2023, the Ministry of Health put in a solid $47 million to tackle problem gambling and offer support services, showing they mean business in taking care of the community.

And they’re watching how technology affects gambling habits, researching and finding ways to reduce harm while being mindful of different cultures.

It’s all about ensuring everyone can enjoy fun without worries.

Gambling Places in New Zealand

New Zealand offers a variety of options for those seeking a flutter, catering to different preferences and budgets. Here’s a breakdown of the leading gambling hubs:

SkyCity Auckland: The largest and most opulent casino in New Zealand, featuring over 2,100 gaming machines, 150+ table games, and a vibrant entertainment scene.

SkyCity Hamilton: Smaller than Auckland but still popular with over 900 gaming machines and 40+ table games.

SkyCity Queenstown: Nestled amidst stunning scenery, this casino offers over 500 gaming machines 30+ table games, and breathtaking views.

Play at SkyCity Online Casino by clicking on this link

Dunedin Casino: Housed in the historic Grand Hotel, this casino boasts ornate decor, over 500 gaming machines, and 30+ table games.

Christchurch Casino: A modern casino with over 500 gaming machines and 30+ table games, conveniently located in the city’s heart.

TABs (Totalisator Agency Boards)

These government-owned outlets primarily focus on sports betting and racing, offering some pokies and instant Kiwi scratchies.

They’re widely distributed nationwide, providing convenient access for casual gamblers.

Online Gambling

A rapidly growing sector, online platforms offer various casino games, sports betting options, and lotteries.

However, regulations restrict access to licensed New Zealand operators, and responsible gambling practices are crucial when playing online.

Other options

  • Bingo halls: A popular social activity, particularly among older demographics, offering chances to win smaller prizes.
  • Pokie machines in pubs and clubs: These standalone machines in bars and clubs provide limited gambling opportunities for those seeking smaller stakes.


In New Zealand, lots of people enjoy a good gamble, around 62% of Kiwis to be exact. They spend about $2.3 billion on it yearly, with lotteries and pokies being the favourites.

This gambling business also generates $550 million yearly for the government, funding various community projects.

But it’s not all sunshine; about 1 in 5 people face some issues with gambling, and it costs the country around $4.4 billion every year.

The government invested $47 million in 2023 for support services to tackle this. The laws around gambling are pretty strict, thanks to the Gambling Act 2003, keeping things in check.

There are cool places to gamble, like SkyCity in Auckland, Hamilton, Queenstown, Dunedin, and Christchurch, plus TABs and online options.

It’s a journey where New Zealand aims for a fun gambling experience while ensuring everyone stays safe and sound.


How can I get help if I have a gambling problem?

If you or someone you know is struggling with gambling addiction or harm, help is available. Confidential support services like the Gambling Helpline (0800 654 655) offer assistance and resources.

What are the different types of gambling available in New Zealand?

New Zealanders have a variety of gambling options to choose from, including:

Lotteries: Popular national lotteries like Lotto and Powerball offer the chance to win large prizes.

Pokies: These electronic gaming machines are found in casinos, pubs, and clubs, offering quick and easy games with potentially high payouts.

Casino games: From classic table games like blackjack and roulette to more modern options, casinos provide a variety of gambling experiences.

Sports betting: Kiwis love backing their favorite teams, with TABs and online platforms offering bets on various sports, including rugby, cricket, and horse racing.
Online gambling: A growing sector, online platforms offer various casino games, sports betting options, and lotteries. However, responsible gambling practices and age restrictions are crucial when playing online.

What are the concerns about gambling in New Zealand?

Although gambling can be a fun and occasional activity for many, there are significant concerns about potential harm.

Around 1 in 5 New Zealanders experience some level of gambling harm in their lifetime, disproportionately affecting Maori, Pacific, Asian, young adults, and those on low incomes.

Problem gambling can lead to financial difficulties, relationship breakdowns, mental health issues, and even crime.

What is being done to address problem gambling in New Zealand?

The New Zealand government and various organizations are working to minimize gambling harm.

Initiatives include public awareness campaigns, responsible gambling practices within the industry, support services for those affected, and tighter regulations, such as reducing pokie machine numbers and restricting online access.

Related Read:

About the author

Bhumika Mishra

Bhumika Mishra

Bhumika, a spirited and youthful author from Auckland, offers a unique viewpoint on the contemporary digital world. Merging her enthusiasm for narrative crafting with a keen interest in advanced technology, she creates engaging and informative content that both enthralls and educates her audience.