Despite its close proximity to neighbouring Commonwealth country Australia, New Zealand has a distinct character and culture entirely of its own. Though the countries share a common interest in some sports, with rugby union and cricket popular in both nations, the New Zealand government’s stance on gambling is slightly different to that of Australia's. With New Zealanders already wagering over $NZ 2 billion a year, it’s worth players knowing precisely where they stand when they stake their hard-earned money on sports, casino tables or slots, so here is gambling.com's overview of gambling in New Zealand.
All gambling that takes place in New Zealand is regulated by the country’s Department of Internal Affairs. Different types of gambling have held various legal statuses in the past. Bookmaking, for example, was declared illegal in 1920, and it wasn’t until 1961, with the introduction of the Totalizator Agency Board (TAB) that betting on horse racing anywhere other than on-course was made legal. Meanwhile, the first national lotteries, known as ‘Art Unions’, were established in 1933, and the country's first casino opened in Christchurch in 1994.
Today, the Gambling Act 2003 governs the legality of gambling in New Zealand, outlining four classes of legal betting, with anything that falls outside of the parameters described in each class being deemed as outside the law. A slightly perplexing technicality arises from the Act's prohibition of "remote interactive gambling", defined as "gambling by a person at a distance by interaction through a communication device", essentially covering online casinos and bookmakers that are accessed via computers and mobiles. However, as the law only concerns gambling in New Zealand, it is not illegal for residents to bet or play casino games online if the website is based overseas, allowing players to access operators such as 888 and Betfair freely - sites which are not fully accessible from Australia.
Much like their Aussie neighbours, 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 1991, 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.
In terms of sport, New Zealand's national games are cricket in the summer and rugby union in the winter. The latter is the bigger spectator sport, especially at the domestic level, but international matches in both sports are followed even more strongly.
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 online bookmakers but, as mentioned above, New Zealand gambling laws dictate that the provider must be based overseas.
Rugby union is popular across the whole country, with many New Zealanders identifying it as an important part of their national identity. Globally, even those with only a passing interest in the sport are likely to have heard about the All Blacks, partly due to their awe-inspiring winning record - which is the best of any national team in the world - but no doubt mainly because of the haka, the traditional Maori war cry that the team performs at the start international matches.
Aside from international Test matches, there are a few other widely followed competitions. Super Rugby, which currently involves 15 teams from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, takes place between February and August and is popular with spectators and gamblers alike. Rugby union betting markets for domestic games aren’t as prevalent as they are for international matches, but bookmakers like 888sports 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.
New Zealand's gambling legislation is under fairly regular review, as the fast moving changes in technology often create new legal puzzles for governments to work over. While some of the current laws might seem a little restrictive, New Zealand residents can at least for the moment depend on overseas online gambling sites, whether it’s for betting on cricket or rugby union or for a few casual games on their favourite online slot machine.
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