New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs asks for public input on gambling laws

New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs - gambling laws

The New Zealand government will consult with the public before making a decision on whether to update legislation surrounding online gambling.

New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) announced a survey regarding an expansion of the current laws surrounding online gambling activities.

Currently New Zealand is regarded as having “grey laws” which in simple terms means there is not any legislation banning offshore online casinos or bookmakers from targeting their citizens.

The DIA said there would be ample opportunity for the public to have a say about online gambling, while the online consultation period is open until September 30.

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“We need to update our laws for today’s digital world and future-proof them as much as possible,” a NZ DIA official said.

New Zealand’s gambling laws are considered to be out of date, with no changes to the original legislation which was enacted in 2003, prior to the huge growth in online and digital wagering.

The DIA believes it is its responsibility to upgrade gambling laws to protect consumers from the pitfalls of online wagering and the associated harms, such as problem gambling and unscrupulous operators.

Under the current laws it is illegal to host online gambling in New Zealand, with the only sanctioned forms of wagering being lotto and betting with the NZ TAB, which both have an online presence. There are no laws, however, which outlaw offshore casinos and betting sites from accepting Kiwi customers.

The two options confronting the NZ government moving forward with online gambling are regulating the industry, which would mean operators would need a local licence to operate there, or banning the industry entirely.

No doubt the DIA will look at the spectacular failure of the laws update in Australia, which banned online casinos and poker, but has only succeeded in driving the industry underground and players to more dangerous gambling sites that don’t have respected licensing.

Or judging by the rhetoric coming from the DIA, the more preferred option would be to regulate the industry and earn the government tax in the process. At the moment it’s estimated that there is more than NZD $3 million being pumped into offshore casinos and betting sites annually.

“This is big money coming out of New Zealand and we don’t know where those gamblers are or if they can afford to do so,” Internal Affairs Minister Tracy Martin said.

One of the reasons the DIA is investigating the possibility of regulating online gambling is Sky City, which runs several land-based casinos in New Zealand, and their decision to launch an online casino via their Malta arm, which technically is an “offshore operator”.

Sky City officials have stated their preference is to operate in a regulated environment, but they were not going to handicap their own business waiting for action, while the online gambling industry takes significant clientele and profit from their operations.

“While ultimately a regulated online gaming market is the best solution, we think this is a great first step that allows us entry to a new industry and gives our customers an option they have been looking for,” SkyCity chief executive Graeme Stephens said.

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