Although it’s a relatively young industry in comparison to some countries around the world, the New Zealand gambling sector is still valued at an estimated $2 billion. After the opening of the first casino in Christchurch in 1994, the popularity of the pastime exploded and the government implemented protocols to control its growth.
One of these included capping the number of land-based casinos in country at just six. That has led to a demand for a NZ online casino, since geographical limitations and capacity issues means that those six establishments cannot cater to the needs of everyone. Nowadays, there is a thriving online casino scene in the country – but it’s still rigorously regulated by the government.
The Gambling Act 2003
The Gambling Act of 2003 was the first piece of major legislation passed on gambling in NZ in the 21st century. It was drafted, approved, and implemented by the Department of Internal Affairs, which is responsible for handling all legislation changes associated with the sector.
While the Act does not allow New Zealand-based operators to open up an online casino website, it does state that “it is not illegal for someone in New Zealand to participate in gambling over the Internet if that website is based overseas”. Therefore, today’s online casino sector in New Zealand is based entirely abroad.
That applies not only to the servers which support the site, but also the operators of the site themselves. The Gambling Act has since been amended twice, once in 2005 and again in 2015, though neither alteration impacted upon the way in which New Zealand residents can gamble at an online casino.
What the future holds?
Having witnessed the success of the industry in countries such as the UK, the USA and many European nations – and to a lesser extent, on home soil – the New Zealand authorities are now looking at changing the legislation once more. This would potentially allow for the operation of domestic operators to engage in the market, too.
The two options open to the government are a public-endorsed system whereby the government has a monopoly on the domestic sector, as is currently the case in places like Finland and Canada. The other option is to legalize the industry completely and allow private entities to set up online casinos to serve the populace from a New Zealand base.
The former option is attractive because it could earn the government significant profits and benefit charities and non-profit organizations, but it might mean that state-owned operators were unfairly disadvantaged against overseas rivals. On the other hand, the second option would give the authorities good oversight of how domestic operators conduct their business, but the costs of obtaining a license might deter the growth of the industry.
The New Zealand online casino industry is regulated by the government and currently prohibits domestic operators from running their own site. However, that could change in the near future – with significant ramifications for operators and gambling enthusiasts alike.